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March 12, 2012 at 11:15 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

Asperger's and ADHD: What's the Difference?

By Brad Plaggemars More Blogs by This Author

While recent changes to the so-called "psychiatric bible" or DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) may not have changed much when it comes to ADHD, professional opinion surrounding Asperger's disorder has seen some dramatic changes.

While once considered a distinct disorder, similar, but separate from mild autism, the new DSM, DSM V, lumps both Asperger's and Autism under the umbrella of a new term "Autism Spectrum Disorder." Though they point out severity can range from mild to severe, generally the DSM-V reports, "People with ASD tend to have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. In addition, people with ASD may be overly dependent on routines, highly sensitive to changes in their environment, or intensely focused on inappropriate items."

On the other hand, ADHD is described as "A behavior disorder originating in childhood in which the essential features are signs of developmentally inappropriate inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Although most individuals have symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity, one or the other pattern may be predominant."

While here the difference may seem perfectly clear, symptoms do overlap in a way that can make mild ASD difficult to distinguish from ADHD.

Mild ASD and ADHD have a number of similarities such as:

  • Attention problems
  • Irrational energy
  • Difficulty learning
  • Seeming not listen when spoken to
  • Issues with following directions
  • Frequently saying inappropriate things
  • Having a difficult figuring out the appropriate response to certain situations
  • Nonstop talking
  • Tantrums and emotional outbursts

Yet, they are distinct.

The main differences between mild ASD and ADHD are:

Routine:  While individuals with ASD tend to stick stubbornly to routine, individuals with ADHD may actually be just the opposite.

Focus: While individuals with ADHD struggle to maintain attention on just one thing for any length of time, ASD individuals tend to hyperfocus in on just one activity at a time.

Social Issues: Though individuals with ADHD may annoy others with their excess energy or difficulty focusing on a chosen activity, individuals with ASD have a different set of social issues. They struggle to begin or end conversations, tend to ramble on about a favorite topic when in conversation, phrase things in an oddly formal way, and are often seen as being generally odd.

Clearly, both mild ASD and ADHD have many similarities as well as differences.  I hope this provides you with a better understanding about both disorders.


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  • My son aged 7yrs shows all the symptoms of ADHD. The school he attends cannot cope with him. Your article has helped me understand & recognize the symptoms. How can I purchase Synaptol as I live in South Africa.

  • I'm glad I can be of some help Sumaiyah. In order to purchase Synaptol, you can go to the online store located at the top of the page. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

  • Loved the article "Asperger's and ADHD: What's the Difference?"
    Only 1 disagreement: ADHD kids can focus on Video Games for many hours straight (this includes deafness) :) but not on something that DOESN'T interest them (like school). It has been said, "ADHD is not an inability to FOCUS; it's an inability to CHANGE focus at an OUTSIDE REQUEST."

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