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Is your learning style also your autistic Achilles heel? Your sensory downfall?

Is your learning style also your autistic Achilles heel? Your sensory downfall?

This author has been thinking lately about how we learn (from a sensory perspective), and how autists’ sensory challenges affect this.

female child in a ball pool - illustrating autism article on spectra.blogThe primary or dominant learning styles of all individuals are said to use the three main sensory receivers: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic – the latter is essentially learning by doing, and includes ‘tactile’ learning – eg. a physical type of learning.

Essentially, all individuals use memory and perception to learn – and these two elements are often different in autists. All of us use all of the three main learning styles to a degree, however we do tend to have a preference for one.

Very young children are generally taught (in an educational setting) using movement-based methods; older children’s teaching is often more visually presented; and for older students, including those moving into college education, auditory learning is more usual. Good teachers would presumably use a blend of teaching techniques, and recognise individuals’ dominant learning styles, and adapt the learning as required.

An autist’s dominant learning style

Helping identify an autist’s dominant learning style can help an autistic child access their education, and could reduce stress. As an example, a young autistic boy this author knows, aged six, struggles (as a kinesthetic learner) to remember a text he has to read at school, which is then directly followed by a comprehension question – all read by the boy on paper.

He would be greatly helped by teaching techniques that involve touching, building, moving, or drawing a subject, in order to learn about it. He may also find it beneficial to hold something (like a fidget pen or toy, which can be tapped or held), while learning, to disperse some energy and aid focus.

Three girls are shown to illustrate that echolalia can be an early sign of autism.One point that I have been pondering is whether our dominant learning style is also our Achilles heel, as an autistic. For example, I am an auditory learner – I say things out loud to learn them, can recall information by simply hearing it, and work comfortably with sound in the background.

It is as if my auditory system is amplified

However my dominant autistic sensory challenges are also auditory. On a sensitive day, it is sounds, chattering, people’s mouth or eating noises, background noise, ‘grating’ noises like metal on concrete etc, that challenge my system the most.

So, it is as if my auditory system is amplified – and this not only allows me to effectively learn through auditory means, but also brings my system down when my auditory processing is overloaded. I can only speak as an autist and not for anyone else of a neurotypical persuasion, but if other autists experience this ‘ying and yang’ issue too, identifying it could be most beneficial, in terms of helping an autistic child access learning .

The autism research institute gives some examples of how autistic children may learn as follows:

If an autistic child enjoys looking at books (e.g., picture books), watching television (with or without sound), and tends to look carefully at people and objects, then he/she may be a visual learner.

 If an autistic child talks excessively, enjoys people talking to him/her, and prefers listening to the radio or music, then he/she may be an auditory learner.

And if an autistic child is constantly taking things apart, opening and closing drawers, and pushing buttons, this may indicate that the child is a kinesthetic or ‘hands-on’ learner.

The organisation states ‘It is important that educators assess for learning style as soon as an autistic child enters the school system and that they adapt their teaching styles in rapport with the strengths of the student.’

Boy draws, to illustrate childhood autism articleOf course, not all learning takes place at school, and the same theories can be replicated at home.

It really does make sense to work to a child’s strengths rather than ‘squash’ them into a learning methodology that doesn’t ‘fit’ them!

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism Spectrum Disorders / Conditions.

The information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences. We’d also love your feedback on our posts!

‘Will the family understand an autism diagnosis?’

‘Will the family understand an autism diagnosis?’

A mum we know whose child may be autistic was recently asked whether her parents, the child’s grandparents, would understand an autism diagnosis.

The mum wasn’t sure, and her companion remarked that she doubted the grandparents would understand.

Image illustrating article showing the grandparent of autistic child ASD ASC.The connotations were that in their day, no one (outside of psychiatry circles), had heard of autism. Children of different neurologies were unkindly labelled at school, and you just had to get on with the card you were dealt.

But this got us thinking; no matter what your level of understanding, awareness and education about autism, and no matter whether you are an active computer user and are au-fait with the tools available on the internet, surely not understanding autism is a choice?

Most people do not understand physiological or neurological conditions unless we are involved somehow in the field – in fact few of us understand in a true sense the vast majority of topics, unless we have studied them.

But when you need to learn about something, most of us have the capacity and the resources to do our best and find out more. Not understanding autism is a luxury parents of autistic children are not afforded. Gaining education and awareness about the condition that affects your loved ones is surely a priority?

Grandparent with an autistic child (stock shot)The importance of learning more about the condition applies to lots of people surrounding an autistic individual, and ideally family members and anyone involved in their education should endevour to find out more. There are plenty of simple, bullet point resources outlining the very basics of autism (e.g. the main challenges the individuals face, and how to support them at home, and in the school or workplace environment) available; not just online, but also in libraries. The National Autistic Society is a good place to start – http://www.autism.org.uk.

And even if some of the library books may not be completely up-to-date or concise, the library staff are usually very happy to help with research, and accessing and printing information sourced online. It really feels that not understanding something is a bit of a cop-out. None of us are educated about anything, unless we go out and seek to improve our knowledge base!

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences. We’d also love your feedback on our posts!

Autism and anxiety – if A is for autism, then it is most definitely also for anxiety

Autism and anxiety – if A is for autism, then it is most definitely also for anxiety

Anxiety and other similar problems are rife in the 21st-century, but for many people the issues are episodic or caused by an obvious external factor.

(Anxiety UK reports that anxiety disorders are very common, with 1 in 6 adults regularly experiencing some form of ‘neurotic health problem’, and the most common neurotic disorders being anxiety and depressive disorders. More than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life, reports the organisation. Source – www.anxietyuk.org.uk)

Anxiety can really be considered to be part of your autistic DNA…

A man is shown in shadow to illustrate an article on autismHowever if you are on the autistic spectrum, for many individuals, anxiety can really be considered to be part of your autistic DNA. There is very little in the way of hard and fast stats and figures to indicate anxiety levels among autists. (The National Autistic Society states that autistic children and young people can experience a high ‘base level’ of anxiety every day. ‘Autistica’ advises that anxiety is ‘common’ in autists.)

Spectrum News reported that the reason we see ‘classic things’ like social phobia and generalised anxiety [in autists] is because people on the autistic spectrum have unique, distinct ways of perceiving the world. They reported in 2017 that Psychologist Connor Kerns, assistant professor at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia, USA, is working with others on new ways to measure both ordinary and unusual forms of anxiety in autistic people. There are links to hers and others’ studies on anxiety and autism HERE.

Is a degree of anxiety an inbuilt factor for someone who is autistic?

But through this author‘s communication with other autistic individuals, and from collating information, it seems that a substantial degree of anxiety is an inbuilt factor with autism.

Many autists would for example describe their anxiety (on a scale of 1-10) at being at five, just as a baseline. Just getting through the day with all of the run-of-the-mill, usual challenges can be very stressful for autists; it is as if our neutral state is to have a certain level of anxiety.

If you know about autism, then the reasons for anxiety are obvious

Tony Attwood’s disparagement humour. Good-natured fun, or bullying, exploitative and offensive?If you know about autism then the reasons for this anxiety are obvious. Probably a major factor is social masking – trying to fit in with the world, and say and do things that others consider appropriate – which can be exhausting and stressful.

If you are an undiagnosed autist, there is the constant feeling of being different and not fitting in, or failing at being your best self. Very stressful! If you are a child, this is compounded by all of the developmental issues, and social and educational expectations.

Just the neurological differences for autists, in terms of elements like executive function, memory, sensory issues, emotional calibration and communication, can bring about a sense of anxiety. And this is without all of the usual stresses concerning finances, places of education, workplaces, relationships and so on.

The pressures are anxiety-inducing to an autistic child

For a school-aged child, or more specifically a child who is educated at school, the pressures of fitting in and completing school work when you have issues like executive function difficulties and possibly other comorbid autistic conditions can be immensely stressful and anxiety-inducing.

It is no wonder that unexplained anxiety is often one of the first things that parents of undiagnosed autistic children notice. And it is no surprise that so many children hold it together emotionally at school, and let out their emotions at home, leading to unhelpful third party comments like: ‘Well, he / she doesn’t seem to be very anxious at school.’

Personally speaking, e.g. from the author’s own autistic experience, I can say that my anxiety never goes away, but it is manageable. However, this has only really come about with an autism diagnosis.

Talking therapies, mindfulness etc can help, but really the key is perhaps to know your own autistic spectrum. (See our blog on this subject below).

Aspie-superpower days – why autists may be on an ‘autistic spectrum within a spectrum’? We look at the different ‘autistic’ days…

Know your own autistic spectrum

Two men walking, to illustrate autism articleSo what do we mean by this? We mean, what triggers you; what overloads you in a sensory or social capacity; what external factors cause frustration; anger or upset; what sensory challenges affect your mood? What activities that you are engaged in (whether this is social activities, or within the educational action setting, workplace etc) make you stressed? Which family members, friends, associates or workplace colleagues are drains or fountains? (Drains being the people who drain you of your emotional energy, and fountains being the people who replenish it).

Would it be feasible to stay away from the drains to a degree, no matter who they are?

Or is there a way to educate the people around you further about what you need to do to reduce your anxiety day-to-day, in a self-care capacity?

Targeting anxiety as an autist

There are of course age-appropriate medications available for anxiety, in addition to therapies, dietary and exercise interventions and natural remedies as well, which individuals or their parents can discuss with the relevant healthcare provider.

But let’s look at it simply – if you had a severe allergic reaction to a type of animal or a plant, would you constantly be in close proximity to the animal or plant? Would you take a job in that field? it would be inadvisable, for your health. Yet many of us on the autistic spectrum continue to do things that cause an unpleasant reaction to our bodies.

Anxiety is a psychological response which can have physiological consequences. Noticing one’s triggers, or the triggers for a child, is a massive step on the road to managing anxiety.

Man on bed to illustrate that Autistic burnout is a physiological symptom of system overload

Autistic burnout – Burnout is a physiological symptom of system overload.

Anxiety that builds up is a factor for an autist heading to autistic shutdown, autistic meltdown or even autistic breakdown or burnout. Stories abound of young autistic adults reaching key developmental stages in their life, for example the start of high school or the start of university, and then having a complete emotional breakdown.

 Noticing one’s own anxiety levels can be immensely helpful

Noticing one’s own anxiety levels can be immensely helpful in preventing these incredibly detrimental occurrences. For example, noticing: changes in appetite or interest in food; an increase in harmful repetitive processes (including thoughts), and self stimulating behaviours that are detrimental; general apathy and lethargy; a lack of patience with people and reduced capacity to socialise to one’s usual capacity; and even a change in one’s heartbeat, if you use a health / activity tracker.

In children, are they ‘acting out’ a little more (behaviour that challenges is often a big ‘red flag’ sign); or having more meltdowns or episodes of sadness?

Are they finding it harder to regulate their emotions; withdrawing into themselves; exhibiting more self soothing stims; having difficulties in their place of education; becoming more controlling of their environment, or experiencing increased levels of perfectionism?

Mother and son - illustrating an article stating - If you are the parent of a child that you think may be on the autistic spectrum, you will almost definitely get asked the question: ‘But why would you want to give him or her a label?’Helping autistic children to identify their own responses could be very useful.

If a child is experiencing any significant number of the above signs, it could be time to reduce their sensory challenges and level of socialisation, reduce the demands put upon them, and do whatever is needed to help them recalibrate in a safe place, with plenty of downtime that meets their needs.

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism.

The information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences.

We’d also love your feedback on our posts!

Quirks and autistic attributes

Quirks and autistic attributes

Let’s talk about quirks, in connection with autism spectrum neurologies. A quirk is a little difference, or something unusual – the Cambridge English Dictionary describes it as: ‘An unusual habit or part of someone’s personality, or something that is strange and unexpected: Or, an unusual habit, or type of behaviour.’

Woman with flower to illustrate an article about autismBeing quirky is not necessarily a bad thing; it can be a trait that makes someone fantastically individual. Lots of people are described as being quirky, and it can be a compliment; think of all the movie stars, artists and singers that you know – it is likely that the quirky ones stick in your mind the most.

An individual ‘look’

Many people on the autistic spectrum can be described as quirky. They may look quite individual – sensory challenges for example may dictate an away-from-the-norm hairstyle; meanwhile, the realisation that they don’t fit into a typical mould, combined with their creativity, could influence embellishments like tattoos, fashion, hair colours and piercings.

 Autistic special interests

Autists are known for their special interests, which can be unusual or less mainstream than their peers’ interests. Somewhere, there is an autist with a keen eye on the life cycle of the Lesser Spotted Serbian Wood Warbler, Albanian number plates of the 1980s, and vinyl b-sides of a now-defunct record company based in Hemel Hempstead.

Autists tend to thrive on repetition and patterns, so anything with a regular element to it appeals to the autistic brain; for example collecting certain items. The ‘collection’ and ‘special interest’ elements often intertwine, meaning autists develop real expertise in their area of interest. Read more about autistic special interests here.

‘We’re all a little bit autistic aren’t we…’

Woman with eyes closed _ to illustrate article on communication between NTs and autisticsThere is a lot of talk about the large amounts of people of all neurologies that have what could be described as autistic quirks or traits, and this leads to the well-worn phrase: ‘We’re all a little bit autistic aren’t we.’

Put simply, no, we are not all a little bit autistic – autism is a type of neurology that is diagnosed when person matches a designated set of criteria.

What is meant by the above term is that all of us have traits which autistic people often also have; for example quirks in the way they do things, repetitive habits, hyperfocus, attention to detail, shyness or introversion, and many more human traits.

But to have all of the aforementioned quirks or traits does NOT make you autistic.

It just means you have quirks in the way you do things, repetitive habits, hyperfocus, attention to detail, shyness or introversion.

It is no surprise that the phrase ‘We are all a little bit autistic aren’t we?’ gets banded about, as it is shared from person to person – in this author’s personal experience, I have heard therapists, clinicians and educators use it (when really they shouldn’t!), when it is actually a confusing phrase. Thus, it is a matter of education.

 In the general, NT population, ‘quirks’ aren’t autistic traits, surely?

White female smiling - used as stock shot for autism articleAt Professor Tony Attwood’s 2019 presentation, ‘What you need to know about Autism’, presented by the ACMAH, Professor Attwood told delegates:
Autistic [type] characterisations are like a jigsaw of 100 pieces [e.g. 100 autistic traits] – I have never met [someone non-autistic] with less than 20 pieces, and never met someone with autism with 100.”

By Professor Attwood’s calculations, at least twenty per cent of neurotypical (NT) individuals have some ‘autistic type’ characterisations or traits.

This author does feel however that calling traits (or quirks) such as those linked with difficulties with social communication and social interaction (shyness, introversion, lacking confidence socially);  restricted patterns of behaviours (eg. obsessive compulsive disorder-type behaviours, playing with one’s hair or tapping one’s feet repetitively), and those traits linked with sensory challenges (eg. disliking the feel of clothing labels, or avoiding a certain texture of food) AUTISTIC TRAITS adds to the confusion. In the general, NT population, they’re not autistic traits, surely? Doesn’t it make sense to say that only in an autist, are they autistic traits?

Autism is a neurological difference in processing

The premise that we ALL have a selection of quirks, but that autists simply have more is fine of course, but there does need to be some clarity, to get away from the ‘We’re all a little bit autistic aren’t we…’ phrase. ‘We’re all a little bit quirky…’ is an improvement! Autism is a neurological difference in processing, and simply having a collection of traits or quirks without this difference in processing does not make someone autistic.

It is important to celebrate one’s quirks

A picture of a couple holding hands to illustrate autism articleIt is important to celebrate quirks of course, and specifically to celebrate one’s autistic quirks. For a start, an autistic special interest invariably makes the individual an expert in that field – and many autistic individuals are highly creative, for example enjoying hobbies and careers in fields like photography, writing, graphic design, fashion and crafting. That ‘quirk’ could be the unique selling point that creates an income stream for the autist, or sets them out as a specialist, and an innovator. It could be the element that makes them the perfect friend.

Another reason to celebrate quirkiness is that being different is not necessarily a bad thing.

Following the crowd means you can get lost in the crowd – your voice may not be heard, you may go unnoticed, and you may coast along in the ‘middle of the road’. Having a difference, a USP, means you may take unusual and creative paths. No-one changed the world by being middle of the road! (Apart from, perhaps, the Scottish pop group, Middle of the Road, who bestowed upon us the song ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’. The definition of how this song changed the world is up for debate.)

Neurodiversity

Back to celebrating our autistic quirks. Being different means being diverse, and diversity has shaped many key educational, economic, cultural, and societal issues. Look at the steps that have been made recently in terms of diversity of language, race, religion and gender presentation. The neurodiversity movement (described by The National Symposium on Neurodiversity as being a concept where neurological differences are to be recognised and respected, as any other human variation, and may include those individuals with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Autism, Tourette Syndrome, and others), is making great strides, currently.

Neurodiversity as a social model advocates viewing autism (and other neurologies) as a variation of human wiring, rather than a disease, and neurodiversity activists advocate for celebrating autistic forms of communication and self-expression. (Source – The National Symposium on Neurodiversity.) Neurodiversity advocates also promote the use of support systems that allow autistic people to live as autistic people (no need to ‘cure’ them or quash their autistic quirks!), and advocate simply asking autistic individuals about their experiences, to promote understanding and awareness (there’s even a hashtag – #AskAnAutistic).

So to conclude, let’s, as autists, give ourselves a break, and try to accept and celebrate our quirks.

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism Spectrum Disorders / Conditions; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences. We’d also love your feedback on our posts!

A dual diagnosis of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – what are the implications?

A dual diagnosis of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – what are the implications?

A dual diagnosis of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is becoming more prevalent now, due to clinicians’ ability to diagnose both neurologies under the latest diagnostic criteria. (The older DSM-4 for example specified that an autism or ‘ASD’ diagnosis was an ‘exclusion criterion’ for ADHD, thereby limiting research in the field – source – Leitner.) The reason why the two neurologies may co-occur is unknown, however there’s thought to be some common underlying etiology, as yet unconfirmed.

It does require a very experienced clinician or multi-disciplinary team to carry out the assessment and subsequent diagnosis, as the two neurologies presenting together can make diagnosis much harder. But why is it harder to spot an individual with an autism spectrum condition (ASC) AND ADHD – for example, if you’re a teacher or family member? Here’s a theory – is it as if the two extremes of each neurology can be softened, or can become less noticeable to outsiders? (Inside, the challenges and conflicts the individual experiences can of course be considerable – but the outer ‘presentation’ can perhaps sometimes appear more typical.) An example of this theory is that autists may typically prefer sticking to their routines and their limitations, whereas those with ADHD may be more impulsive and fearless – the two extremes can potentially mean the individual’s choice at a given time (eg. to climb a high and unknown tree) sits more in the middle; they may be less likely to avoid the activity as it is out of their ‘safe’ and ‘known’ remit of ‘sameness’ (relating to ASC), but also less likely to take a big risk (relating to ADHD / impulsivity).

Autism may be missed if an ADHD diagnosis is given first

female child in a ball pool - illustrating autism article on spectra.blogIt is said that some children with both neurologies are unfortunately having their autism missed, if they get an ADHD diagnosis first. In a study in the journal ‘Paediatrics’, researchers looked at around 1,500 autistic children. They found that those who got an ADHD diagnosis before an autism diagnosis were diagnosed with autism an average of three years later than those who got the autism diagnosis first. They were 30 times more likely to get the autism diagnosis when they were aged six or older. (Source – Harvard University).

Let’s look at the key factors of autism and ADHD

(1)ADHD is defined by impaired functioning in the areas of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Often, children with ADHD have difficulty focusing on one activity or task; they may be easily distracted; they are often physically unable to sit still. The ‘attention deficit’ wording may be misleading, as this element could be described as an ‘interest’ deficit – eg. the individual can hold their attention easily on something, if they’re interested in it. As with ASC, children with ADHD often have difficulty moving their attention to other activities, when they are asked to do so. (Source – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or CHADD).

(2)Autism is characterised by social and communicative dysfunction, restrictive-repetitive behaviours and sensory challenges. Children with autism are most likely to have hyper-focus, and may be unable to shift their attention to the next task. They are often inflexible when it comes to their routines, with low tolerance for change. Many are highly sensitive or insensitive to sensory input, like light, noise and touch. They may ‘stim’ eg. make gestures such as repeated arm flapping, or oral stims like tongue sucking. (Source – CHADD). (Read our blog on stimming below.)

Autistic stimming, or ‘self stimulating’ behaviour – calming, satisfying and recalibrating

(3)Autistic symptoms are said to be more ‘stable’ than those of ADHD behaviours, which show greater variability in their presentation. (Source – Pourcain et al. (). It would therefore be normal for someone diagnosed with both autism and ADHD to present completely differently on different days, and of course to feel very different on different days, depending on which neurology is dominant and what external factors are present (eg. nutrition / sleep / sensory challenges).

(4)Both conditions affect the central nervous system, which is responsible for movement, language, memory, and social and focusing skills. (Source – CHADD).

(5)Studies show that up to 50% of individuals with autism also manifest ADHD symptoms (particularly at pre-school age). Similarly, estimates suggest two-thirds of individuals with ADHD show features of autism – source – Leitner.)

(6)Anxiety and mood disorders, although highly prevalent in those with ASC alone, are even more prevalent in individuals who have ADHD. (Source – Lipkin et al).

A dual diagnosis

Children playing - for autism article on spectra.blogThe issue in terms of diagnosis is that both autism and ADHD often include difficulties in attention, communication with peers, impulsivity, and various degrees of restlessness or hyperactivity. Both neurologies can cause significant behavioural, academic, emotional, and adaptive problems in all settings.

However in our minds here at Spectra.blog, having both neurologies does not necessarily equate to twice the challenges. Maybe just a different set of challenges! There are perhaps positives to be gleaned from having autism AND ADHD, over having autism on its own, in terms of some of the restrictive and limiting elements of autism being potentially reduced at certain times, when the more impulsive and sociable elements of ADHD are dominant.

Warding off anxiety

We must be upfront. It is proposed that there’s a risk for ‘increased severity of psycho-social problems’ (depression and anxiety etc), with a dual diagnosis of ASC and ADHD. (Source – Gadow et al., 2004; Yerys et al., 2009). However, having an understanding about the neurologies at an early age (for the individual) surely helps families and educators (and the autist themselves) to manage their challenges, in order to ward off such problems? (Eg. talking therapies like CBT, mindfulness techniques, dietary support or management, and skills training to help cope with daily life, eg. ‘social skills’ training via a school programme.)

In a study titled ‘Anxiety and Mood Disorder in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD’, it was reported that anxiety disorder and mood disorder, while very common in autism, are even more common when children also have ADHD. Knowing in advance that anxiety and mood disorders are a big risk factor for individuals with ASC and ADHD means interventions and supports can be given in advance, to help promote good mental health. Adaptions can be made and demands can be reduced, in order to prevent anxiety in the individual. It is a good idea for the autist themselves to gain an understanding of their neurology, how they present on different days (eg. which condition is more dominant, and how that feels), and also what external factors (food, sleep etc) are contributory.

Medication

female child - for autism article on spectra.blogMedication to help readdress the chemical imbalances of ADHD in older children or adults may be suggested/prescribed, however it is said to have the potential to be LESS effective for individuals with ASC AND ADHD, and may cause more side effects, including social withdrawal, depression, and irritability, as opposed to when the medications were used to treat ADHD alone. (Source – CHADD). The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that the first steps in treatment for ADHD for young people include help with behaviour and stress management as well as educational support – children under school age should not be given medication for ADHD, they advise. (Source – NAS.)

Do autism and ADHD together ‘buffer’ themselves, somehow?

We would have to collate opinions of individuals with both neurologies, in order for us to comment fairly (and we actively invite them to – if you have autism and ADHD, please comment, or get in touch!). But surely this duality of autism and ADHD has the potential to provide some kind of ‘buffering’ effect, in terms of reducing extreme or unsafe behaviours? In ADHD children, when the hyperactivity and impulsivity would be more noticeable, this ‘buffering’ element could perhaps be beneficial to an individual’s safety; eg. if the impulsivity of ADHD was offset somehow by a more rational and logical mindset.

Having autism and ADHD, can however mean that outsiders like educators and extended family members can’t initially see that the behaviours the person has are atypical. Eg. a dual diagnosis of ASC and ADHD can presumably mean the individual could present more like a neurotypical (NT or non-autistic) person. It doesn’t mean they feel NT inside of course, or that their challenges are reduced.

ADHD, like autism, is widely said to be a lifelong condition, however the characteristics may alter with age, eg. the hyperactivity element is said to be much more common in children than in adults. Some adults report a large decrease in symptoms of ADHD as a person ages, however this could be due to their own management of their challenges. This reduction in overt signs leads some experts to propose that ADHD isn’t lifelong; however the general consensus is that ADHD DOESN’T GO AWAY.

What is the benefit of clinicians being able to diagnose autism and ADHD?

A dual diagnosis of ASC and ADHD potentially allows for more efficient clinical management of such individuals, and ‘clears the way for a more precise scientific understanding of the overlap of these two disorders’  – source – Leitner.

As we have described, it allows the individual to gain an understanding of their neurology, in a way that many NTs do not have – after all, anxiety and depression are prevalent across the population, eg. across all neurologies. Perhaps understanding one’s own neurology, in the way that many autists do, is a benefit in terms of safeguarding mental health and knowing how to administer ‘self-care’? (Read our blog on the Spoons Theory, for more info).

The emotional cutlery drawer of spoons, and the ‘social hangover’ (ASD, ASC, Asperger’s)

Lining toys up can be linked to autistic traits.

Lining toys up can be linked to autistic traits.

If any parent or educator is concerned that a child is exhibiting disproportionate levels of anxiety, plus a kind of ‘double-sided personality’, with moods that are very cyclical, as well as the usual signs of autism like social and communicative issues, repetitive behaviours (like lining toys up, in our photo),and sensory challenges, it may be worth investigating the possibility of a co-morbid ADHD diagnosis too.

Or at least, initially keeping a diary of signs and behaviours, and external factors.

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism.

The information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences. We’d also love your feedback on our posts!

Read more on co-existing autism conditions here –

 

Co-morbidity and autism spectrum conditions, or ASCs (ASD, Asperger’s)