ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. Often, symptoms may include restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and impulsive actions. ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is classified as a spectrum due to the wide range of strengths and difficulties a person can present with. On this page, we have outlined the different presentations of ASD and ADHD in children.
Autistic children often experience difficulties with language, communication, and social interaction but simultaneously can have a tremendous imagination and creative thinking. At times, autistic children struggle with sensory processing and thrive in a routine, finding change difficult. Autistic children may also want to spend more time alone focusing on their special interest.
Girls do present very differently from boys with autism. What we know is that girls are very good at reading what other people are doing and using those behaviours themselves as a way to mask their much more subtle difficulties. However, that behaviour takes its toll on them. It can often leave young girls feeling entirely drained, so they might need time alone when they get home. Their special interests are frequently typical for girls, including arts and crafts, animals or reading, so it might be challenging to tell that is a special interest to them.
Having a formal diagnosis of autism can help you to understand your child’s needs and how you can support them. The diagnosis can also encourage and prompt more support for your child at school and assist you as a parent or carer, such as through financial aid. Recognition of your child being autistic can also help make sense of their behaviour and allow you to understand how your child thinks and feels to develop your relationship and mutual coping mechanisms.
The key difference between children and adults with autism is that adults have often developed coping strategies and ways to mask how they might be feeling. They might put on a front when they're with other people, and they can behave in a certain way which can significantly impact their social battery.
Children with ADHD may find it tough to sit still. They might be fidgety and find focusing hard, particularly in classes. They might be on the go if they are more hyperactive. With a more inattentive type of ADHD, the child might find that they're more forgetful, find it hard to organise themselves, and have many thoughts that others might not always recognise.
Often people with inattentive ADHD can be hyper-focused on specific topics which can be a real strength. The hyperactive and impulsive type of ADHD can result in the person seeking out sports and activities to keep them occupied.
In particular, girls experience inattentive ADHD, so it might not always be picked up by others around them, particularly in school. Girls are very good at masking their difficulties, but they might find it hard to organise and structure themselves. Inattentive ADHD can then impact things like their focus, their attention and their sleep as well.