Unlocking ADHD writer Shreshtha Jolly describes Autism Spectrum Disorder, its comorbidity with ADHD and shares her findings on managing the conditions.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized with disturbances in social, communication and behavioral realms. Some children diagnosed with ASD require a lot of assistance while others require less. There is nothing specific about appearance that sets apart an ASD diagnosed child from his/her peers.
So, how do you know when an ASD diagnosis is needed?
Symptoms of ASD
In general, children with ASD display certain signs or symptoms.
Social interaction and communication problems
- Difficulties in conversation
- Reduced emotional expression
- Difficulties in processing social cues like eye contact and gestures
- Difficulties in forming interpersonal relationships
Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors/activities
- Repetitive motor movements like hand-flapping.
- Abnormal speech patterns like echoing and repeating words.
- Adherence to strict routine or structure.
- Hyper or hypo-sensitivity to sensory stimuli – indifference to pain/temperature, excessive touching and smelling of objects, etc.
Symptoms of ASD and ADHD often co-occur together. Both share similar symptoms like inattention, communication impairment, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The co-occurrence of both disorders can worsen psychosocial problems. However, a comorbid diagnosis is manageable.
Tips for Managing ASD & ADHD
Some useful tips for management of the condition are:
- Make simple changes in the home and educational environment:
- Remove harsh lighting.
- Remove loud noises from both internal (e.g., T.V.) and external sources (e.g., road traffic)
- Keep the environment non-cluttered.
- Check for learning disabilities like dyslexia, language and communication deficits by consulting speech and language therapists for timely intervention.
- Understand the sensory profile of the child and tailor the school environment accordingly. For example –avoid space congestion.
- Devise an appropriate curriculum structure for the child. Accept achievement gaps between the child and his/her peers.
- Provide pharmacological treatments:
- As a second-line treatment after behavioral observation and psychological intervention.
- Provide medicines that deal with comorbid symptoms like anxiety and sleep problems.
- Pay close attention to side-effects.
- Practice a slow and steady approach in terms of medicine dosage.
Overall, the most important thing to remember is that a comorbid diagnosis is not the end of the world. Have realistic expectations to help both your child and yourself manage.