Autism, ADHD often Go Hand-in-Hand
It may come as no shock to parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but a new study has concluded that up to one-third of young school-age children with ASD also display symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Until earlier this year, guidelines published by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) prevented mental health professionals from diagnosing a child with both conditions at the same time. But no such restrictions remain in the latest version of the guidelines (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5), released in late May. The new guidelines represent the first major revision to the neuropsychiatric “bible” in more than a decade.
In a news brief regarding revisions in DSM-5 that cover ADHD, the American Psychiatric Association noted that ADHD is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. “Symptoms...include behaviors like failure to pay close attention to details, difficulty organizing tasks and activities, excessive talking, fidgeting, or an inability to remain seated in appropriate situations.”
Researchers at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute found that when children have both ASD and ADHD they are significantly more impaired on measures of cognitive, social and adaptive functioning than children with ASD alone. Lead researcher, Dr. Rebecca Landa, hailed the change in DSM-5 as a step in the right direction. The study’s results suggest that children diagnosed with both conditions may require different, or more intense therapies, to achieve better outcomes. “Current statistics predict one out of every 110 children is destined to develop autism,” Dr. Landa writes, in her online Kennedy Kreiger staff profile. “Though the cause of autism is unknown and the condition cannot be "cured," structured educational programs geared to the child's level can help children with autism lead happy, productive lives.”
Rao PA, Landa RJ. Association between severity of behavioral phenotype and comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism. 2013 Jun 5. [Epub ahead of print]