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Asperger’s or ADHD? Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Overview

Highlights

  1. Both Asperger’s and ADHD can lead to difficulty in socializing, communicating, learning, and developing, but for different reasons.
  2. Boys are at a greater risk than girls for developing both AS and ADHD.
  3. Both conditions develop early in a child’s life. An early diagnosis is also key to treating each.

Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) are familiar terms for parents today. Many parents have faced
an AS or ADHD diagnosis with their children, while others worry they will one
day.

Both conditions develop early in life and have similar
symptoms. They can lead to difficulty in socializing, communicating, learning,
and developing, but for different reasons. A better understanding of Asperger’s
and ADHD means more children are being diagnosed than ever before, and at an
earlier age. Early diagnosis is the best way to effectively treat both
conditions, but pinpointing a child’s issues isn’t always easy.

What
is AS?

Asperger’s syndrome is part of a group of neurodevelopmental
conditions called autistic spectrum disorders. AS may prevent children from
socializing freely and communicating clearly. Children with AS may develop repetitive,
restrictive behaviors. These behaviors may include an attachment to a specific
item or the need for a strict schedule.

Disorders on the autism spectrum range from mild to severe,
with Asperger’s as a mild form. Many people with AS can lead a healthy life,
and behavioral therapy and counseling can help AS symptoms.

What
is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder develops in childhood.
Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, focusing, and possibly
learning. Some children will experience a significant decrease in symptoms as they
get older. Others will continue to experience ADHD symptoms through their
adolescent years into adulthood.

What
symptoms do AS and ADHD share?

Many AS and ADHD symptoms overlap, and AS is sometimes
confused with ADHD. Children with both of these conditions may have:

  • difficulty
    sitting still
  • social
    awkwardness and difficulty interacting with others
  • frequent
    episodes of non-stop talking
  • an
    inability to focus on things that don’t interest them
  • impulsivity,
    or acting on a whim

How
can you tell the difference between AS and ADHD?

Despite common symptoms, a few symptoms set AS and ADHD
apart.

Symptoms specific to AS include:

  • all-absorbing
    interest in a specific, focused topic, such as sports statistics or animals
  • being
    unable to practice nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, facial
    expressions, or body gestures
  • being
    unable to understand another person’s feelings
  • monotone
    pitch or lack of rhythm when speaking
  • missing
    motor skill development milestones, such as catching a ball or bouncing a basketball

Symptoms specific to ADHD include:

  • being
    easily distracted and forgetful
  • being
    impatient
  • learning
    difficulties
  • a
    need to touch or play with everything, especially in a new environment
  • reacting
    without restraint when upset or bothered, or without consideration for others

Who
is more likely to have AS and ADHD?

Boys are at a greater risk for developing both AS and ADHD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
boys are more than twice as likely than girls to develop ADHD. ADHD symptoms
tend to differ between genders. Boys tend to be more hyperactive and
inattentive, while girls are more likely to daydream or quietly not pay
attention.

Autism spectrum disorders are about 4.5 times more common in
boys than girls.

When are AS and ADHD
noticeable in children?

Symptoms of AS and ADHD are present in a child’s earliest
years, and an early diagnosis is crucial to treat and manage the condition.

Children with ADHD often aren’t diagnosed until they enter a
structured environment, such as a classroom. At that point, teachers and
parents may begin to notice behavioral symptoms.

AS typically isn’t diagnosed until a child is a bit older.
The first obvious sign may be a delay in reaching motor skill milestones. Other
symptoms become more apparent as the child gets older, such as difficulty
socializing and maintaining friendships.

Both conditions are hard to diagnose, and neither condition
can be diagnosed with a single test or procedure. With autism spectrum
disorders, a team of specialists must reach an agreement about your child’s
condition. This team can include a psychologist,
psychiatrist, neurologist, speech therapist, and others. The team will
collect and consider behavioral assessments and results from developmental,
speech, and visual tests, and first-hand accounts of interactions with your
child.

How are AS and ADHD treated?

Neither AS nor ADHD can be cured. Treatment focuses on
reducing your child’s symptoms and helping them live a happy, well-adjusted
life.

The most common treatments for AS are therapy, counseling,
and behavioral training. Medication is not commonly used. However, doctors may
prescribe medication to treat other conditions that occur in children with and
without AS. These conditions include depression, anxiety, and
obsessive-compulsive disorder.

As a parent, you see the everyday struggles your child
faces. You also see more of their symptoms than a doctor or therapist can in a
short appointment. You can help your child and your child’s healthcare
providers by recording what you see. Be sure to note:

  • your
    child’s routine, including how busy they are and how long they’re away from home
    during the day
  • structure
    of your child’s day (for example, highly structured days or minimally
    structured days)
  • any
    medicines, vitamins, or supplements your child takes
  • personal
    family information that may cause your child anxiety, such as a divorce or a new
    child
  • reports
    of your child’s behavior from teachers or childcare providers

Most children with ADHD will find relief with medication or
behavioral therapy and counseling. A combination of these treatments can also
be successful. Medication can be used to treat your child’s ADHD symptoms if
they interfere too much with everyday activities.

Outlook

If you suspect your child has AS, ADHD, or another
developmental or behavioral condition, make an appointment to see their doctor.
Bring notes about your child’s behavior and a list of questions for their
doctor. Reaching a diagnosis for either condition can take several months, or even
years. You will have to be patient and act as your child’s advocate so they get
the help they need.

Remember that each child is different. Don’t gauge your
child’s development by other children. Work with your doctor to make sure your
child is meeting their growth milestones. If they aren’t, speak to your doctor
about all possibilities, including AS and ADHD.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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