Understanding Autism

ADHD and Autism are both neurodevelopmental Disorders, involving differences in brain development and function. There are some genetic factors that are associated with both conditions, suggesting there is an overlapping genetic influence. Families with a history of one condition may have an increased risk of the other.

  • It is estimated that 1 in 38 people are on the Autistic Spectrum.
  • 80% of people with Autism have ADHD traits.
  • 30-50% of individuals with Autism meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis.
  • 66% of people with ADHD have Autistic Spectrum traits.

Historically the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) did not allow for a diagnosis of both ADHD and Autism until 2013 when DSM-5 was released. DSM-5 also merged all subcategories of Autism into the term Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Level 1 Autism encompasses those who would have had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome or Social Communication Disorder. These individuals do not have significant language delays or intellectual disabilities.

Level 2 Autism is diagnosed in those who require substantial support with Social Communication. They display marked differences in verbal and nonverbal social communication and their behaviour is apparent even during brief interactions with others. These challenges can lead to limited initiation of social interactions or abnormal responses to social overtures from others. Restricted, repetitive behaviours are common, and there is a difficulty in transitions and coping with change.

Level 3 Autism is described as those who require very substantial support. They experience severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills, inflexibility of behaviour and extreme difficulty coping with change. They may have very restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviours more frequently.

"Don't think that there's a different, better child 'hiding' behind the autism. This is your child. Love the child in front of you. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks, and improve his weaknesses, the way you would with any child."