View Full Version : AD/HD, Autism/Asperger's, focus and medications


skipping
04-27-11, 03:49 PM
Has anyone here been diagnosed (or know someone who's been diagnosed) with both AD/HD and Autism Spectrum or Asperger's? If so, what kinds of treatments are used? Ritalin/Concerta?

The reason I ask is that a family member has gotten both of these diagnoses, and we're getting conflicting opinions from M.D.'s and PhD's. One psychologist who we know feels strongly that, although people in the autism spectrum can have problems with distractability, it's not really the same thing as AD/HD. He says that lack of focus in AD/HD is caused by a neurological condition of underarousal, and a stimulant like Ritalin can help. On the other hand, he says that distractability in autism spectrum people is caused by the opposite problem -- the brain is already overstimulated by too much sensory input. He feels emphatically that Ritalin is bad news for people on the autism spectrum.

Yet I've heard some M.D.'s who study autism say that people on the spectrum can benefit from relatively small doses of Ritalin.

Of course, you could always say to give it a try and see what happens. In the case of our family member, the result isn't clear. Sometimes Ritalin or Concerta seems like it might be helping, and other times he clearly has problems with focus even though he's on Ritalin. And frequently it does seem as though the Ritalin is making him anxious.

So, I was curious if there was anyone else here who might be in the same boat, and to ask what has and hasn't worked for you. I haven't run across any other medication that's supposed to help with focus apart from Ritalin and similar stimulants. The main advice I've heard on preventing distractability in people with autism is to make the environment as quiet and calm as possible.

Thanks for any ideas,

fracturedstory
04-27-11, 08:07 PM
I have autism and ADHD. Ritalin did make me more anxious but I'm on the smallest dose possible, 5mg which is enough for me as long as I eat the right kind of food. I'm not sure if that's an autistic thing but what I eat can either give me a lot of energy and boost my mental performance or do the opposite.

Autism distractability may be sensory stress. We have very sensitive senses and can't block it out like most non-autistic people can. But I have ADHD too and my distractedness is different than sensory stress. I sometimes just can't focus on anything even when I want to. Most fidgeting in autism is actually a method to deal with sensory stress. When I am overloaded I will focus on just one thing to block out the chaos of the world. The chaos is as small as being in a public area. Stimming helps ease stress too but is more involuntary than fidgeting is.

When people are just autistic they have more attention when they want to concentrate, in fact often they have too much and can get very obsessed with something and forget about everything else. The memory is even better. Both short term and long term memory in ADHD is worse.

What you really need to know is that you can have both disorders and the meds help to treat the ADHD side. Actually Ritalin makes me less obsessional and I'm more easily able to switch from one thing to another, only with a mild discomfort from change. It decreases my meltdowns too and makes me talk more to people.
The best part of Ritalin is that is does decrease my irritability, give me energy when I have sluggish days and make me focus better when I'm experiencing either inattentive or hyperactive symptoms. It really helps with my memory too.

skipping
04-27-11, 08:52 PM
Thanks, interesting story.

You mentioned food. Are there certain foods that you find keep you on an even keel, or conversely make you feel worse? Our family member with autism (and possibly ADHD) has a very limited diet, mostly bland foods. He says he finds tastes and smells really hard to deal with (like sounds and other stimuli). He knows the diet isn't healthy, but doesn't know how to break through things to adapt to healthier foods. He says he'd get nauseated if he tried to eat a lot of foods.

On the Ritalin, how many times a day do you typically take a 5mg? Do you only take it on days that you need to focus to get things done, or do you take it all the time? Does anything else besides Ritalin and diet help?

branjie
04-28-11, 01:55 AM
My son has ADHD and Aspergers. Dexamphetamine, a stimulant, made my son worse, but Strattera, an ADHD medication which is not a stimulant has helped us a LOT. We tried him off it recently and couldn't handle more than 4 days. It brought me back to how desperate we were before he was on the medication. I'm so glad he's on it. He's doing better in school, and is better socially. It's certainly not made him a brilliant student, and he still has a long way to go with his social skills, but it has definitely helped. All you can do is give the meds a go.

fracturedstory
04-28-11, 07:52 AM
Thanks, interesting story.

You mentioned food. Are there certain foods that you find keep you on an even keel, or conversely make you feel worse? Our family member with autism (and possibly ADHD) has a very limited diet, mostly bland foods. He says he finds tastes and smells really hard to deal with (like sounds and other stimuli). He knows the diet isn't healthy, but doesn't know how to break through things to adapt to healthier foods. He says he'd get nauseated if he tried to eat a lot of foods.

On the Ritalin, how many times a day do you typically take a 5mg? Do you only take it on days that you need to focus to get things done, or do you take it all the time? Does anything else besides Ritalin and diet help?
Even keel? I'm not sure when I've ever felt even. it's either lethargic or hyperactive. The meds do bring some balance.
I usually eat food that helps my energy and concentration. I heard vitamin K is good for autistics. I can try and dig up a big long document I have on it. I usually eat wheat, tomatoes, eggs, fish and leafy vegetables to help with energy and concentration. I suppose protein can help make me feel balanced too. Potatoes, pasta and greasy foods in excess will make me sluggish. I had one soda once and got instant brain fog and I was on medication.
After Easter I felt incredibly sluggish. Granted I was full of chocolate, potato bake and beer. But the food made me feel worse than the beer did.

I used to have a limited diet but when I first started to diet (as in losing weight) I decided to not limit myself from any food groups. There are still some things I can't stand like onion, capsicum, and rye bread.

You could try combining the less desirable food with food he likes. I used to put cheese sauce on vegetables. I really like stirfries too and can even eat onions when they're mixed in. I'd rather not though.
One concern is my lack of vitamin C. Oranges make me sick so I only get small amounts of it. I think it's in some of the stuff I eat. Just a glass of orange juice is enough to give me a stomach ache.

I take Ritalin 5mg twice daily for 5 days a week and take the weekends off but because I'm now writing now I might start taking it just for writing. My low dose is starting to feel less effective but I've run out of refills and don't have a script so I have to make them last until I see my doctor.

I exercise on weekends too. I don't like exercising while on medication because it speeds my heart rate up. I spend a day or two doing weights and cardio. I usually listen to music and can spend up to an hour exercising because of it. That helps to give me a clearer mind and relieves stress.

Ritalin also sometimes decreases my sensory stress. When I'm on it and I'm in a supermarket I have less sensory overload which usually builds into a shutdown (a slowing down of the mind and inability to move the body - caused my sensory and emotional stress). That's something autistic people struggle with all the time and I had spent years looking for medicines and supplements or even other methods to decrease it.