ADHD and Autism

As parents observe their children during the formative years, many find it hard to distinguish what may be simply "odd behavior" from true neurological disorders. A similar phenomenon occurs when observing children who are highly active. During those early years, it's crucial to consult the pediatrician so they can note differences in behavior over time.

There are a number of disorders that accompany Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which presents itself in the pre-school years, and learning disabilities are common. Most of these learning disorders manifest themselves differently, however, from the symptoms of autism. Although children with autism and ADHD may be behave differently, there is evidence that these disorders may be caused, in part, by the same gene. [Source: Smalley, et al.)

The reverse can also be said for the occurance of ADHD in children or adults on the ASD spectrum. Many children with autism display behavior connected to hyperactivity and inattention when they start school. However, physicians agree that as the child becomes older it becomes easier to tell the difference between the two conditions.

When observing the development of children, refer to these commonly recognized language development milestones:

A healthy child should be:

  • Laughing, crying, fussing by 5 months of age
  • Watching the face of a speaker by 5 months of age
  • Babbling or mimicking speech ("ma ma ma", "ba ba ba") by 12 months of age
  • Gesturing (pointing, waving) by 12 months of age
  • Paying attention to a book or toy for two minutes by 12 months age
  • Speaking two or three words by 16 months of age
  • Speaking two-word phrases or labeling objects or people by 18 months of age
  • Answers questions nonverbally (nodding or shaking head) by 18 months of age

Related Articles


  • Smalley, S.L., Kustanovich,V., Minassian, S.L., Stone, J.L., Ogdie, M.N., McGough, J.J., McCracken, J.T., MacPhie, I.L., Francks, C., Fisher, S.E., Cantor, R.M., Monaco, A.P., and Nelson, S.F. Genetic Linkage of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder on Chromosome 16p13, in a Region Implicated in Autism," Am. J. Hum. Genet., 71:959-963, 2002.

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