ADHD may delay diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

September 29th, 2015

A recent US study has found that children with both autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD may be at increased risk of having the diagnosis of their ASD significantly delayed. This is thought to be at least partly attributable to both conditions harbouring a number of shared symptoms.

The research, which was carried out on 1,496 children aged between 2 and 17 years, used data from the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health to examine the association between children having a previous diagnosis of ADHD and the age at which they received an ASD diagnosis.

Overall, approximately 20% of children with both ADHD and ASD had received a diagnosis of ADHD first. When the researchers controlled for factors that normally influence the age of ASD diagnosis, they found that these children were 30 times more likely to receive their ASD diagnosis after 6 years of age, equating to a 3.2-year delay when compared with those who had received an ASD diagnosis first or at the same time. The data also appear to support the notion that the observed delay persists across age and severity of ASD.

The authors of the report suggest that these recent findings indicate that children with ADHD and ASD exhibit unique traits that could bias clinicians toward an ADHD diagnosis and conclude that “[in order] to avoid potential delays in ASD diagnosis, clinicians should consider ASD in young children presenting with ADHD symptoms”.

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