Does My Child Have ASD and ADHD - or Just ASD?

"Is it possible to have a child diagnosed with ADHD, but later discover that he really has ASD? Our son currently has a diagnosis of ADHD, but the more we research, the more we think he has ASD instead. Also, is it possible to have both disorders at the same time?"

Yes, and yes. Even though doctors have clear diagnostic guidelines for children with ASD (High-Functioning Autism), some children get misdiagnosed with other disorders. ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are two diagnoses that children with autism often get diagnosed with. Both diagnoses have features similar to ASD, particularly ADHD.

ADHD is a genetic disorder as is ASD. Both situations involve children with difficulty learning and difficulty with interacting with other children. There can be hyperactivity with both disorders as well. Because of the similarities of the two disorders, the doctor must look at the checklists for both disorders to see which of the two disorders matches the best.

In looking at the two disorder checklists, it’s easy to see that there are similarities and differences...

ASD Behavioral Checklist:
  • Difficulty mixing with other children
  • No real fear of danger
  • Tantrums, displays extreme distress for no apparent reason
  • Inappropriate giggling or laughing
  • May not want cuddling or act cuddly
  • Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
  • Little (or no) eye contact
  • Works impulsively, often makes careless mistakes, work is sloppy 
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills

ADHD Behavioral Checklist:
  • Can't talk or play quietly, disrupts others with talk or actions
  • Difficult awaiting turn in games or activities 
  • Engages in potentially dangerous activities
  • Plays without normal caution or consideration of consequences 
  • Severe temper tantrums 
  • Interrupts, disrupts, talks and acts inappropriately
  • When younger, difficulty accepting soothing or holding
  • Always on the move, overactive, even during sleep
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school work or other activities
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills

Using checklists like these may be the best option in diagnosing a child correctly and not missing the diagnosis of ASD when it exists.

This video goes into greater depth on this issue:
The ASD-ADHD Overlap

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


•    Anonymous said... yes, there can be what they call co-morbidity, symptoms are similar in some aspects but ADHD is far more readily diagnosed
•    Anonymous said... Yes, my son was originally diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. I never agreed with the ADHD diagnosis. I think It's all a bit of a guessing game anyways.
•    Anonymous said... yes, my daughter has both adhd and aspergers, both diagnosed together when she was 7
•    Anonymous said... Yes my son was diagnosed at 2 with adhd then at 12 years of age he was diagnosed not only with ADHD but aspergers as well as OCD. I now have another son on the spectrum he is 8 but high functioning this time round but just as difficult but I'd like to say my oldest aspy now has a job and a secure future, they can get there they just need support and encouragement to not give up on themselves and that they too can have a place in society
•    Anonymous said... Yes it happened with my step daughter. Although it was obvious from the start something wasn't right but her mom was in denial which happens sometimes
•    Anonymous said... Yeah... our daughter was diagnosed with both, as well as a couple of other possibilities, depending on which psychiatrist or psychologist you asked.
•    Anonymous said... When it comes to anxiety-based/type disorders, it's rare for a child to be diagnosed with only one; more often than not, there will be two, three or even more at work at the same time. My son has Asperger's, ADD and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. There might even be more but those are the diagnoses so far...
•    Anonymous said... Unfortunately that's a "go to" diagnosis in public schools. I've seen so many children misdiagnosed as ADHD when there was something else going on. That was what the teachers were suggesting to me also, with my kiddo. Behaviors that would fall under ADHD can be easily found in other diagnosis also, especially with Aspergers.
•    Anonymous said... This appears to be so common - it angers me. I firmly believe that clinical (NHS) staff are told from'up above' to exhaust everything else before diagnosing Aspergers/HFA. Purely because of the money involved once you have that 'Autism' word on paper. I know my son has Aspergers - not ADHD as they have tried to tell us. Don't give up and you are allowed to disagree with them!
•    Anonymous said... The are Comorbid Dx. My son has both.
•    Anonymous said... That happened to me. My son was given a LIST of issues (at age 5/6), I mean it took the whole page. It just wasn't accurate. We were given (by a different doctor) an aspergers diagnoses about 6 months later. It fit much better and we were able to help him more appropriately.
•    Anonymous said... One thing I've learned about ALL of this stuff is, the diagnostic "labels" are really more useful for determining your eligibility for various types of funding or which programs you can get them into than anything else. The truth is, there's a lot of overlap of signs/symptoms of ADD, ADHD, Asperger's, or "childhood bi-polar". (In fact, depending on who you ask, "childhood bi-polar" doesn't even really exist!) You'll also see such conditions as "separation anxiety disorder" mentioned in some cases. (EG. There was a divorce when the child was young and he/she wound up not seeing one of the parents anymore.) They might even wind up declaring a kid has "behavior disorder, undefined". Ultimately, you have to figure out as a parent what seems to work for your kid and what doesn't, and be flexible enough to keep changing things up as he/she gets older. Our kid went through a phase where, at least according to the school system, ADHD medications were a big help in allowing her to concentrate and succeed in her school-work. But now, I took her off of those meds because I realized her personality and attitude has changed as she's matured. She did just fine last school year without it. Now, her biggest problems seem to be in other areas than concern about hyperactivity or "lack of ability to concentrate". Now, she just has more issues making and keeping friends, and not seeming to understand what's inappropriate to say in some social situations.
•    Anonymous said... My son's original dx at 6yo was ADHD. At 10you bipolar was added, and at 16you we got his asperger's dx.
•    Anonymous said... my son was first diagnosed with Aspergers 2 yrs ago and about 12months ago ADD was added
•    Anonymous said... My son was first diagnosed with ADHA and Anxiety, then a year later with Aspergers. There are many wonderful organizations that help with therapy for Aspergers. Nothing was working until we were able to get his anxiety and adhd under control with meds. They have improved the quality of his life considerably.
•    Anonymous said... My son was dx'd ADHD at age 5. At age 6 they said he was Bipolar. At age 11 they said not BPD but Aspergers. His behavior and quirks fit that dx to a T.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with both. I know they say you can't really outgrow a diagnosis but, at the age of 13 now, I don't believe the ADHD dx fits him anymore. But yes, it is possible to have both and to get a wrong diagnosis. The Connor chart gave my son a diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and it was wrong. The test was given right after my ex husband and I got a divorce and my son was lashing out and angry. Shortly after he saw a clinical psychologist who agreed with me that the dx wasn't accurate/fitting for my son.
•    Anonymous said... my son was diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD and he is on concerta
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5. By the age of 12 after other series of problems with behavior in school and seeing a psychologist after being expelled from school for a month because they refused to accepting him back without knowing what else was wrong with him the psychologist came back not only with the ADHD which fell as the second axis in the diagnosed and aspergers in the first. He also had depression. Short is you can have more than one diagnosis. Now I am proud to say that with therapy and lots of prayer my son is doing much, much better. He rarely exhibits symptoms of depression and he is no longer hyper but does need help with focusing and memory. Extremely forgetful and organized. But if we give them the tools they need they are successful in functioning at school and making some friends. My son is a blessing to my life and I know he was given to me for a special reason. Don't loose hope parents!! Merely watch all the behaviors as they change with age and hormonal changes.
•    Anonymous said... My son has rigidity of thought and struggles with impulse control, both Asperger and ADHD, resulting in no friends and lots of behavior problems. The doctors prescribed 2 medicines for symptoms and the results have been amazing: friends, no negatives marks for first time, A's, able to play with siblings. Even off the medicine, he has ingrained correct behavior and is easier.
•    Anonymous said... My son has dual diagnosis of ADHD and Asperger's. We started with the ADHD diagnosis, but he also had speech problems. As his individual issues were addressed with therapies, his Asperger's symptoms made themselves more evident. There was a WSJ article recently that stated nearly 1/3 of children with Asperger's also have ADHD. Link:
•    Anonymous said... My son has both. Diagnosed ADHD age 6 and Aspergers age 8.
•    Anonymous said... My son has both.
•    Anonymous said... My son has both ADHD and aspergers. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 6-7 and told he had aspergers tendencies. It wasnt until he was about 11 that we had him tested for aspergers again with a very strong positive result. I know he still has ADHD and still needs his medication for that. It is VERY common for the two to exist together.
•    Anonymous said... my son has both ADHD and Aspergers as well as a host of other things
•    Anonymous said... My daughter has both and she was diagnosed when she was 14. She is now 15. She is sailing threw Sciences and loving every minute of it. She has a amazing singing voice to. She has some amazing gifts and I'm so proud of her.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter had an initial diagnosis of both, was then reassessed and just given an ASD diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... My child has ADHD, ODD and Autism (and several others). We got the ODD and ADHD diagnosis first. Unfortunately a lot of the time you will get one diagnosis at a time. It is actually VERY common for a child who has Autism to also have co-concurring diagnosis... so I wouldn't be surprised if they tell you later on that your child does have another diagnosis on top of the ADHD. We have about 7 diagnosis. The thing is, all they do is build a profile on my daughter and help us treat her better. As overwhelming as that sounds on the surface, it has helped us find better ways to help her and treat her.
•    Anonymous said... My 11 yr old daughter was diagnosed with being at risk for ADHD and 2 months later diagnosed with Aspergers. I have spoken to the school she is attending and they have said they will be doing an intervention for 6 weeks and see how she is during that timeframe. Has anyone dealt with the school side of dealing with Aspergers and ADHD. She is not on medicine for ADHD, and we are still setting up appointments for her having the possibility of CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder).
•    Anonymous said... Labels are great for school services like social classes, behavior chart, recess monitor, etc., but I am finding a good diagnosis of symptoms and treating the specific symptom through medicine and therapy is really helpful. At first reading everything on the labels seemed overwhelming. Once specialists helped me and school on what was hindering him, that is when progress was made for him.
•    Anonymous said... It happened to our son. He was first diagnosed with ADHD and then Aspergers. So I believe it is possible for a dual diagnosis. Always keep in the back of your mind that you are his Mother, have faith in your own instincts and read as much as you can on both subjects. Self information is priceless. No one, not a teacher, not a principal, not a doctor is more of an expert on your child as you are.
•    Anonymous said... I was positive my son was just ADHD.. Because he could communicate and talk so well with us... I didn't realize that in public, at school, etched it was a very different story and that he grew increasingly quiet, and shy. Be ause school kept telling me he was autistic I started spying on him at recess and saw my son sitting on playground not talking to anyone. He was overloaded and didn't know what to do. We started him on counseling after that. He is still shy and inappropriate at times but we are working on it.
•    Anonymous said... Happens all the time,or they have both.
•    Anonymous said... diagnose Suspected ADHD but by 9 it was diagnosed Combined type ADHD/HFA
•    Anonymous said... As a special ed teacher, for many years I knew my, now 16 yr old daughter had ADD, however for years I also suspected she has Aspergers as well. The older she got the surer I was; many of the Aspie behaviors have become more clearly defined. Finally, about 3 years ago a new therapist my daughter began seeing agreed with me. While it doesn't really change anything it was validation. My husband is still skeptical, but doesn't have the experience I have.
•    Anonymous said... ADHD and Asperger's often go hand in hand.
•    Anonymous said...  Yes, that happened to us. ADHD came first, then it was discovered that my daughter has both.
•    Anonymous said...  Yes, my son was diagnosed ADHD at 4 years old at around 8 I started suspecting Aspergers, but they kept saying no, then at 10 he was diagnosed with both.
•    Anonymous said...  Yes to all of that.
•    Anonymous said...  Yeah, my son was diagnosed at age 6 with ADHA. By the time he hit 14 he was finally diagnosed with as aspergers.
•    Anonymous said...  THIS is very common, our son was diagnosed (after much distress about it) w/ ADHD at the time he turned 10 we (his parents) had him evaluated for Apsergers...which we now realize he has. The problem w/ Aspergers is that teachers and most parents have no idea what it looks like. Only those trained or w/ experience notice the differences. The average age (which is way toooo late) a child is diagnosed w/ Aspergers is 10. Good luck on your journey!
•    Anonymous said...  Our neuropsych said Asperger's is a grand combination of all of the above and that no two are the same, which is where 'syndrome' comes in. So, yes, absolutely possible.
•    Anonymous said...  My son has Aspergers and ADHD.
•    Anonymous said...  My son has ADHD, HFA n moderate learning difficulties. It seems to me that if a child has one of the above there is a likelihood that will have more than one disorder. Wouldn't change a hair on his head for all the tea in china. Hard work though
•    Anonymous said...  For sure nothing is ever alone, we have Pdd,nos and anxiety, adhd.
•    Anonymous said... (Especially in lower income areas) Doctors are more familiar with ADHD and tend to lean towards diagnosing that disorder in children who appear hyper (even if the behavior may be secondary to anxiety or another reason). Most doctors only see the child once or twice a year and most of the referrals to a psychologist is based on reports from schools and parents. Always do your own research and go into your doctors appointments prepared. Ask lots questions and always ask for alternatives. Healthcare in this country has a "turn and burn" mentality. They want to make an easy diagnosis with a simple plan of care. Make sure they aren't trying to fit your square child into a round hole.
•    Anonymous said... A lot of the behaviours overlap and sometimes it is hard to know which is which however my son has been diagnosed with both Aspergers and ADHD. Once he received medication for the ADHD it was easier to see the differences. Both are difficult in their own way.
•    Anonymous said... Absolutely yes, to both questions.
•    Anonymous said... ADHD at 8 became HFA/Asperger's when she was about 10. Definitely possible. (she's almost 16, now)
•    Anonymous said... At 7 my son was diagnosed with ADHD & aspergers. My husband always said it was only Aspergers and he will learn the social rules as he did. After 3 yrs of following the school's push for meds for both, I went with my gut. He is meds free, and our family is so much happier. The meds made him very moody and irritable. Though he has a few "quirks", maturity and social classes have helped him to be more receptive of others, unless you are illogical.
•    Anonymous said... Back in the late 80s that was the only diagnosis we had for our aspie daughter. we knew nothing about aspergers. She suffered a lot.
•    Anonymous said... I read a while back that they are considering adding ADHD to the spectrum.
•    Anonymous said... i strongly believe some Drs jump on adhd because they can prescribe and get you out
•    Anonymous said... mine was misdiagnosed exactly like that at 3 and i was blacklisted by the paed for refusing ritalin it took 10yrs to get retesting and ministry of education involvement
•    Anonymous said... My 13 yr old son has Asperger's, ADHD, ODD, and OCD. They come in all packages.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter is 12 and has Aspergers and her teachers have mentioned possible ADHD a few times. But I think that's just my daughter. And as with any child, if they aren't interested in something, they aren't going to pay attention. (or adults for that matter) I can see how both diagnosis can overlap easily.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 3 and ADHD at age 7. She also deals with anxiety and OCD tics.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter was misdiagnosed as adhd for at least 3 years.
•    Anonymous said... My son also benefits from anxiety treatment it calms his outbursts and aggression, his OCD and ticks have all improved with this treatment, sensory disorder contributes to their anxiety so with a little help in this area could prove beneficial to some.
•    Anonymous said... My son has Aspergers and ADHD diagnosis, my younger son has Autism ADHD diagnosis. Common for the two to sit together, there are alot of co-existing conditions, my eldest also has a dysgraphia diagnosis which is a form of dyslexia effecting writing. ADHD medication in a child that is not ADHD will make them climb the walls, in an ADHD child is has the opposite calming effect.
•    Anonymous said... My son has both as separate diagnosis' x
•    Anonymous said... My son has high functioning asd and adhd
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed ADHD when he was 7. At 12, he was diagnosed with autism. He DEFINITELY has ADHD and takes meds daily.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed very young as ADHD and ODD, however I always felt there was more and had to advocate for additional assessments be completed! Follow your mothers instinct, proper identification will help your child immensely with his educational and developmental needs! My son is now 12 and has been diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD for 3 years now.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with ADHD and SPD at nearly 10 and a yr later was diagnosed with ASD also.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with ADHD at 6 and Autism at 8 years old. It's very common to have an aspergers diagnosis in the 8-10 year range following an ADHD diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 and his 4th grade teacher picked up he also had Aspergers and he was diagnosed at age 9 by the doctor so he has both ADHD and Aspergers
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with AS at 3 and ADHD at 12.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with both ADHD and Aspergers at 6 years old
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with both at 16.
•    Anonymous said... My son was Dx with ADHD. It didn't sit right with us and the medication didn't make a marked difference in his behaviour so we had him tested and he was dx with Aspergers age 9
•    Anonymous said... My son was initially dx'd with ADHD, then changed to bipolar and then that was ruled out and final was Aspergers.....
•    Anonymous said... Our son was diagnosed with ADHD & GAD when he was 6...but we always felt something was missing from the 13 he was diagnosed with HFA...we're still working through the puzzle but the right diagnosis helps get the right support
•    Anonymous said... Same here. Our Daughter ADHD and Aspergers and Depression. At age 7.
•    Anonymous said... son diagnosed with adhd at abt 4 later diagnosed with high func. autism as well although dr. thought he had aspergers previously(he is 15 now and doing much better..hang in there
•    Anonymous said... That's what happened with our son! He is 8 yrs old but at 5 adhd was his dx
•    Anonymous said... Wow we are not alone! My 11 yr old was diagnosed with adhd at 6 then aspergers or high functioning asd at age 10. Psychologist said it is a common co-morbidity.
•    Anonymous said... Yes to your questions ... As far as my research has shown & my conversations with psychologists, add / adhd & aspergers go hand in hand.
•    Anonymous said... Yes, my daughter has Asperger's, OCD,PTSD,depression and can't focus at all even though they haven't diagnosed her with ADHD, her father has ADHD so I believe she has it as well.
•    Anonymous said... Yes, my son was misdiagnosed for years.
•    Anonymous said... Yes, our son also was diagnosed as ADHD and we struggled with that diagnosis for four years because he wasn't hyper. It was found later that his anxiety was actually the caliber of his diagnosis for mild autism (aka Aspergers). Four years we poured medication after medication into him trying to treat ADHD -- trying to find the right combination to no medications seem to work. It wasn't until we decided to intutionalized (the hardest decision we've ever made for him) so that doctors could review his medications and work with him. It was there, at this great facility, that we started to get better understanding about autism. Some children with autism...their anxiety is so high and debilitating that they can't function. That's what was going on with our son. When they started treating his anxiety, remarkable changes started to happen. All the big meltdowns, all the flight and flea activity, all the hitting and swearing started to diminish. I'm not saying that the anxiety medication has solved all of our problems, but it certainly has allowed our son to function and be able to control his actions. So if you're going through something like this and would like more information about what we found to treat our son, feel free to personal message me.

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