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What Is The Differences Between Aspergers Syndrome And ADHD?

By: Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah- Ed.D

People frequently question if someone they know has Asperger's syndrome or ADHD. Even a skilled professional may find it challenging at times to distinguish between the two conditions due to their many similarities.

Because executive functioning and information processing are both processes that are disrupted in both Asperger's and ADHD, there is a striking similarity between the two conditions.

Executive functioning refers to the ability of the brain to govern, control, and manage other processes, such as inhibition, mental flexibility, task switching, planning, attention, problem solving, and the initiation and monitoring of actions.

Information processing refers to the ways in which the brain collects, implements, stores, retrieves, and organizes information.

According to statistics, between 60 and 70 percent of children with Asperger's display symptoms that are comparable to those of children with ADHD, which may be due to the fact that difficulties with executive functioning and information processing are common to both conditions.

The similarities between Asperger's and ADHD can include:

  • Impulsivity

  • Difficulty in social skills

  • Difficulty in coordination

  • Difficulty in following directions

  • Easily distracted

  • Learning challenges

  • Sensitivity to sound, light and texture

  • Not very attentive

  • Meltdowns or tantrums

There are fundamental differences between the two conditions despite the fact that they have a lot of similar characteristics in common.

These differences may include:

Socializing: Children with Asperger's have difficulties interacting with others, therefore they tend to avoid a lot of social situations. Stressful interactions with others, particularly with peers, are commonplace for those with Asperger's . Due to their behavioral issues, children with ADHD may have trouble integrating with their peers, but they are usually more social 

Sensory Difficulties: Children with Asperger's syndrome frequently have excessive sensitivity to sounds, as well as to many visual stimuli, smells and some textures. They easily become overwhelmed when a lot is going on around them because of their sensitivity.

Alternatively, a highly stimulating environment tends to improve response in children with ADHD. Unlike children with Asperger's, kids with ADHD don't frequently seek out sensory stimuli in a repetitious or odd way.

Multiple Delays: In contrast to children with ADHD, who are predominantly affected by issues with distractibility and impulsivity, children with Asperger's experience delays in a variety of aspects of their development. Gross and fine motor development, sensory integration, sociability, play, mood regulation, and communication can be delayed in people with Asperger's. Although these issues are typically not as common or severe for children with ADHD. 

Emotionality: Asperger's children often do not exhibit a wide range of emotions, but ADHD children frequently switch between various emotional states and may have trouble managing those emotions & feelings.

Distractibility: Children with Asperger's syndrome typically concentrate on a single task or activity. Children with ADHD, on the other hand, are usually easily distracted. They become distracted from a task or activity by external noises, movements, and other disturbances. In contrast to the more focused character of children with Asperger's, they have a tendency to switch between activities.

Listening: Making and maintaining eye contact is typically challenging for kids with Asperger's. When they are actually listening, they may frequently give the impression that they are not.

Children with ADHD, on the other hand, may appear not to be listening for many reasons. They are often sidetracked by events occurring around them or by their own thoughts.

Language: Children with Asperger's frequently struggle to comprehend nonliteral language. They struggle to understand slang, humor, or hidden meaning. They also have a tendency to talk a lot, but usually only about things that interest them; it is harder for them to switch topics and take turns in a conversation about something that interests someone else.

Children with ADHD on the other hand, are better at switching subjects during conversations and taking turns to satisfy the interests of others. They can comprehend nonliteral language more readily.

There are a lot of generalizations in this list of characteristics. Children with Asperger's or ADHD may not all react the same way as other children with the same diagnosis.

Regardless of their diagnosis, these children  can be difficult for parents to handle at times, so it's crucial that they get the love, support, care, understanding, patience, and important interventions they all need and deserve.

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah is an educational psychologist and a special educational specialist. She holds an Ed.D in both educational psychology and special education. She has over 25 years experience working with children with different educational, intellectual and emotional challenges.

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