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The Difference Between ADHD and Aspergers

The differences between Aspergers and ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) are subtle yet distinct. Knowing how to differentiate between the two is important for moms and dads and therapists.

ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER and Aspergers have many similarities on the surface. Both can involve inattentiveness and problem behaviors. In fact, kids with Aspergers are often diagnosed with ADHD prior to an Aspergers diagnosis. However, the two disorders are not the same. It is important for therapists to be able to make a thorough differential diagnosis between ADHD and Aspergers. It is also important for moms and dads to be able to tell the difference in their own kids who have both diagnoses.

Communication—

By definition, Aspergers does not include any significant delay in language (as opposed to autism). However, people with Aspergers do tend to have distinct differences in how they use language and tend to have language weaknesses that are not typically found in kids with average intelligence who have ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER alone.

People with Aspergers tend to have weaknesses in their understanding of non-literal language, such as slang or implied meanings. They also tend to be more verbose and to have more one-sided conversations that are driven by their own topics of interest. They have a harder time taking turns in conversations or talking about a topic of interest to someone else. People with Aspergers also sometimes display less inflection in their voice.

In contrast, people with ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER may have interests that they love to talk about and they may love to talk, but their conversations are more reciprocal. They can take conversational turns and they can switch topics to accommodate others' interests more easily. People with ADHD also do not tend to have specific weaknesses in their understanding of and use of non-literal language and speak with normal tone of voice and inflection.

Socialization Differences—

People with Aspergers tend to have difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication and the more subtle nuances of social situations. For example, they may not easily distinguish between behaviors that may be appropriate in one setting and not in another or they may have difficulty interpreting facial expressions or posturing of others. In contrast, people with ADHD may be distracted and not pay as much attention to those things, but they do understand and interpret them appropriately.

While people with ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER may be more impulsive and less observant of others' needs, resulting in more misbehaviors, they can easily consider others' perspectives and they easily participate in more reciprocal, or two-sided, social interactions. In contrast, people with Aspergers tend to be more eccentric and one-sided in their approach to others. It is not that they are indifferent to others but that they really have a harder time considering the perspective of others.

Language and social difficulties for kids with Aspergers tend to result in avoidance of many social situations. They have a lot of problems and often do not understand why. Many social situations become way too stressful, especially with peers, and they may prefer adults. Specifically, teaching social skills to kids with Aspergetrs is often necessary. Kids with ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER may have peer conflicts because of behavioral difficulties; however, they are more socially driven.

Sensory Differences—

All individuals tend to have preferred topics of interests or activities. However, for people with Aspergers, those things can often be all encompassing and get in the way of more functional routines. Their preferred topics or activities also tend to have a sensory seeking quality to them (often visual or tactile) and include repetition. They may also be overly sensitive to things like sound and they may tend to get easily overloaded with sensory input.

Kids with ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER often respond better to experiences that are highly stimulating. That is why they can sit for hours playing a video game, while attending to schoolwork may be very difficult. However, they tend to process sensory input in a typical manner. People with ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER do not necessarily seek out sensory experiences in a repetitive or eccentric manner.

Aspergers versus ADHD—

Aspergers includes many social, communication, and sensory difficulties that are distinct from ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER. While the two disorders can result in behavioral and social difficulties, it is important for parents and essential for therapists to look beneath the surface and distinguish between them. Evaluations that appropriately differentiate between Aspergers and ADHD can lead to the most appropriate interventions for kids.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I wish I could hand this article to everyone who thinks my child is "bad" and, by extension, thinks I'm a "bad" parent.

I just want to tell them sometimes: "Welcome to my world. Don't judge my child or our family until you've lived our lives."

Anonymous said...

My daughter has both along with anxiety disorder

Anonymous said...

ADHD symptoms and Anxiety are symptoms of Asperger's. The degrees may vary but it's important for people to understand that the root cause is neurological, not psychological.

Anonymous said...

my son is dxed Aspie, ADD/ADHD, and OCD.

However, he is highly functional and verbal. He LOVES his friends, but struggles to reciprocate. He would rather be with kids his own age, but he wants them to do what HE wants to do and doesn't understand why he can't always play HIS games.

Anonymous said...

I had to share something along the same lines ADHD/Aspergers with the school my son was attending, and I felt their eyes glaze over, like they were saying "speak to the hand". Some times I feel the schools are so closed minded because they are familiar with ADHD and Aspergers is so "new" and they have their hands so full that they wont take the time to learn about Aspergers/autism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Oh, how I wish I could hand this article to everyone who thinks my child is "bad" and, by extension, thinks I'm a "bad" parent.

I just want to tell them sometimes: "Welcome to my world. Don't judge my child or our family until you've lived our lives."


You nailed it---thats EXACTLY how I feel :(

Anonymous said...

It is especially painful when your own partner do not see what you know about your ADHD child and it makes especially difficult when he takes the sides of close minded teacher and blame the kid for being rude and undiscipline and blaming MOM for spoiling the kid. This whole thing is so painful!!!.

Unknown said...

my son is dxed Aspie, ADD/ADHD, and OCD.

However, he is highly functional and verbal. He LOVES his friends, but struggles to reciprocate. He would rather be with kids his own age, but he wants them to do what HE wants to do and doesn't understand why he can't always play HIS games.

My son is at the beginning of the diagnosing process (for ADHD and AS) and he is the same which makes some of the people we see try and tell me that he is normal and just naughty, that he needs to think about others and that he can't have it all his way all of the time, needs to share, etc. If anything goes wrong, he is the first to be blamed :(

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But...

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

If your child suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, expect him to experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over a very small incident, or may experience a minor meltdown over something that is major. There is no way of telling how he is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing a child with a neurological disorder. Violent rages, self-injury, isolation-seeking tendencies and communication problems that arise due to auditory and sensory issues are just some of the behaviors that parents of teens with Aspergers will have to learn to control.

Parents need to come up with a consistent disciplinary plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Aspergers teen develops and matures.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Although they may vary slightly from person to person, children with Aspergers tend to have similar symptoms, the main ones being:

=> A need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed
=> A rigid insistence on routine (where any change can cause an emotional and physiological meltdown)
=> Difficulties with social functioning, particularly in the rough and tumble of a school environment
=> Obsessive interests, with a focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others
=> Sensory issues, where they are oversensitive to bright light, loud sounds and unpleasant smells
=> Social isolation and struggles to make friends due to a lack of empathy, and an inability to pick up on or understand social graces and cues (such as stopping talking and allowing others to speak)

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent?

Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Parents face issues such as college preparation, vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary. Meanwhile, their immature Aspergers teenager is often indifferent – and even hostile – to these concerns.

As you were raising your child, you imagined how he would be when he grew up. Maybe you envisioned him going to college, learning a skilled traded, getting a good job, or beginning his own family. But now that (once clear) vision may be dashed. You may be grieving the loss of the child you wish you had.

If you have an older teenager with Aspergers who has no clue where he is going in life, or if you have an “adult-child” with Aspergers still living at home (in his early 20s or beyond), here are the steps you will need to take in order to foster the development of self-reliance in this child.

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