Many children are being diagnosed with developmental or learning disorders today. Among these disorders, autism spectrum disorder is a “range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The condition is estimated to affect nearly 1 in 88 children who are eight years old. Another condition, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has been linked with autism in a recent research study. In a new study published in Pediatrics, a group of researchers found that children who are already diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to also display symptoms of autism than children without ADHD.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines ADHD as a condition that results in difficulty paying attention, impulse actions without regards to the consequences and hyperactivity. According to HealthDay, the researchers found that almost 20 percent of the ADHD children in the study also exhibited characteristics of autism such as “slow language development, difficulty interacting with others and problems with emotional control.” The children also showed difficulties in planning and executing future plans. On the other hand, less than 1 percent of the children without ADHD showed any signs of autism.
In the study, 242 kids between the ages of 6 and 18 with ADHD as well as a control group of 227 kids without ADHD filled out questionnaires with their parents. The study excluded any children who had already been diagnosed with autism. The questionnaire allowed the researchers to see how the parents and children graded the child’s behavior in addition to comparing the behavior of the child to general descriptions of autism characteristics. From the questionnaires, the researchers learned that 18 percent of the ADHD group and 0.87 percent of the control group possessed some behaviors typically associated with autism.
The questionnaires also revealed that children with ADHD and characteristics of autism were much more likely to have additional problems, including: tension with other children at school, being rejected at school, having problems with their siblings, difficulty handling spare time and additional learning and psychiatric disorders. The researchers say this study, as well as previous research, suggest that ADHD and autism could share a genetic link. Additionally, the researchers say that the findings could help physicians treat cases of ADHD that do not respond well to traditional ADHD treatment.