ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome are both disorders considered part of the autism spectrum. While they can be exclusive of one another, both can occur in the same individual. When they both are present, this is referred to as comorbidity. Although someone may experience both, they are usually diagnosed with one or the other, usually ADHD. This is due to the fact that they have many similarities, but, they also have differences. Here, we will look at what they have in common and how they differ.
The similarities between ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome include, but are not limited to:
• both tend to have problems with attention
• both may appear to be ignoring someone or to be not paying attention during conversations
• both may experience learning problems
• both tend to express behavior that can be viewed as irrationally energetic by some
• both can have impulsive behavior
• both may have difficulties following directions
• both may experience tantrums and / or meltdowns
• both may experience difficulties with figuring out the correct response to some situations and may say inappropriate things
• when they are youngger, both may experience problems with soothing or holding
• both tend to respond positively to structure and routine
While both of those with ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome may experience similar behaviors, the reason may be different. One example of this can be in difficulty following directions. An individual with AS might not understand the directions or find them stupid so they do not follow them. Someone with ADHD might understand them but does not follow them because they get distracted and lose their focus. Also, someone with AS can easily focus on tasks that they are interested in and can intensely focus on that task for an extended period of time whereas someone with ADHD can not focus, even if they are interested, for more than a couple of minutes and will often switch their focus on multiple topics all at once. Another difference is when they are in social situations. The individual with Asperger's Syndrome will generally not express their emotions and they will avoid situations that make them anxious. Someone with ADHD are more apt to express their emotions clearly and their behavior can be oppositional as a way for them to seek attention.
Those with Asperger's Syndrome and those with ADHD can have many similarities for different reasons and differences for similar reasons. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome generally have difficulties due to a lack of social intelligence while those with ADHD have difficulties due to impulsivity and an inability to focus. No matter what the causes, the most important thing to remember that the behavior is not because the individual with AS is a “weirdo” and those with ADHD are not “hooligans.” Rather, these are individuals that are simply expressing themselves the only way they know how.