ADHD vs Autism

autism-adhd-certA little while ago I signed up to a course called Understanding Autism, Aspergers’ and ADHD. The course was interesting, both because I learnt things I didn’t already know, and because it made me challenge my own beliefs. One of the short written questions obliged us to explain whether we thought that autism and ADHD both belong on the same spectrum. It took a lot of thinking about, but this is the answer I came up with.

My first reaction is that these conditions are completely separate, although they share some characteristics – even after completing this module and discovering more about the overlap of symptoms between autism and ADHD

On reflection, I’m not so sure. It is often said that everybody fits onto the autistic spectrum to some extent and as some of these characteristics (eg the need for familiarity, and an aversion to change) would probably have been desirable qualities for keeping safe in the earliest civilizations, it makes sense that both autistic and supposedly neuro-typical people would share them.

I would have said it was not the same case for ADHD, but the anecdote in this course about the child in school who stopped listening to the teacher and went to look out the window when he heard a car has really made me think. How many of us have felt compelled, on hearing rain, to leave whatever we should be doing to stare out of the window, even though we know what rain looks like. Again, this ability to shift attention from the current task to investigate something that may be dangerous, would have been desirable for early man’s survival, so it makes sense for all of us to share it.

After consideration, I think that ADHD, autism and Aspergers do all fall on the same spectrum. I think that we all share combinations of the characteristics of autism and ADHD, it’s just that those of us who are seen as NT possess combinations that do not impact negatively on our lives.

What do you think?