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  • Writer's pictureHannah Corrado

Diagnosing Neurodivergence: Autism vs. ADHD

Neurodivergence is an umbrella term that describes people whose brain develops or functions differently than most people. It also encompasses a group of neurodevelopmental diagnoses that can affect a person’s behavior, social interactions, and communication. These diagnoses include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disorders (e.g., Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia), and many others. The two most well-known diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of neurodivergence are autism and ADHD. While each person may conjure up a different picture of what they think someone with each diagnosis may “look like”, autism and ADHD can look incredibly different for each individual. However, when you get down to the nitty gritty, there is a significant overlap in symptoms between the two, and it is not uncommon for a person to be diagnosed with both. 

When people hear ADHD, what may come to mind is difficulty focusing, being easily distracted, and having difficulty sitting still. However, some additional differences that people with ADHD may experience include time blindness (losing track of time during highly preferred activities or feeling as though time is moving at a glacial pace during non-preferred activities), poor memory, risk-taking behaviors, and forgetfulness. Autistic individuals may struggle with intuitively reading social signals from those who are not autistic. They may also demonstrate differences in how they communicate with others, which may include information dumping (sharing lots of information about their areas of interest). Autistic individuals may range from being hyperverbal nonverbal or non-speaking. Many individuals with autism crave familiarity or rely on routines, which they find comforting or predictable.

There are many traits or symptoms that both individuals with ADHD and autism experience. Many people experience sensory differences, insomnia, restlessness, stimming, and difficulty with friends. Emotional dysregulation and executive function struggles are also common symptoms for neurodivergent individuals. Other diagnoses such as OCD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are becoming increasingly common for neurodivergent individuals as they work to navigate a world that tends to operate very differently from what may feel natural for them. 

Here at The LEAP Clinic, we can provide comprehensive evaluations that allow families to better understand their child’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses. With that understanding, we can develop personalized recommendations for families to help their child reach their potential. Reach out today to set up a consultation to begin to understand if some of the differences you notice in your child may be related to autism, ADHD, or other underlying challenges they are experiencing. Give us a call at 215-918-8145.


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