View Full Version : Adaptive skills in children with autism and ADHD.

07-06-13, 03:27 PM
It appears that the ADHD + autism profile features greater impairments to adaptive functioning than ADHD or autism alone:

Recent estimates suggest that 31% of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) meet diagnostic criteria for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and another 24% of children with ASD exhibit subthreshold clinical ADHD symptoms. Presence of ADHD symptoms in the context of ASD could have a variety of effects on cognition, autistic traits, and adaptive/maladaptive behaviors including: exacerbating core ASD impairments; adding unique impairments specific to ADHD; producing new problems unreported in ASD or ADHD; having no clear impact; or producing some combination of these scenarios. Children with ASD and co-morbid ADHD symptoms (ASD+ADHD; n = 21), children with ASD without ADHD (ASD; n = 28), and a typically developing control group (n = 21) were included in the study; all groups were matched on age, gender-ratio, IQ, and socioeconomic status. Data were collected on verbal and spatial working memory, response inhibition, global executive control (EC), autistic traits, adaptive functioning, and maladaptive behavior problems.

In this sample, the presence of ADHD symptoms in ASD exacerbated impairments in EC and adaptive behavior and resulted in higher autistic trait, and externalizing behavior ratings. ADHD symptoms were also associated with greater impairments on a lab measure of verbal working memory. These findings suggest that children with ASD+ADHD symptoms present with exacerbated impairments in some but not all domains of functioning relative to children with ASD, most notably in adaptive behavior and working memory. Therefore, ADHD may moderate the expression of components of the ASD cognitive and behavioral phenotype, but ASD+ADHD may not represent an etiologically distinct phenotype from ASD alone.

Autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are neurodevelopmental disorders that cannot be codiagnosed under existing diagnostic guidelines (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 4th ed., text rev.). However, reports are emerging that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is sometimes comorbid with autism spectrum disorder. In the current study, we examined rates of parent-reported clinically significant symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in school-aged children (4-8 years) with autism spectrum disorder, most of whom were first enrolled in our research protocols as toddlers.

Results revealed that children with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder had lower cognitive functioning, more severe social impairment, and greater delays in adaptive functioning than children with autism spectrum disorder only. Implications for clinical practice include the need to assess for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms at an early age in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Research is needed to determine efficacious interventions for young children with autism spectrum disorder with comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to optimize outcomes.

The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the frequency of co-occurring attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in a well-defined cohort of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and to examine the relationship between ADHD symptoms and both adaptive functioning and health-related quality of life as reported by parents or other primary caregivers.

T scores on 2 ADHD-related scales from the Child Behavior Checklist were used to indicate the presence of ADHD symptoms. Participants were divided into groups based on whether their parents/caregivers rated them as having clinically significant T scores on the Attention Problem and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Problem subscales. Standard scores from the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Second Edition and raw scores from the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory were then compared between groups with the use of multivariate analyses.

Approximately 40% of participants had 1 elevated T score, and 19% had both ADHD-related T scores elevated on the Child Behavior Checklist. The ASD + ADHD group had lower scores on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Second Edition and the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory in comparison with the ASD alone group.

Results suggest greater impairment in adaptive functioning and a poorer health-related quality of life for children with ASDs and clinically significant ADHD symptoms in comparison with children with ASDs and fewer ADHD symptoms. Physicians are encouraged to evaluate for the presence of ADHD symptoms in their patients with ASDs and, if present, include symptom treatment in the overall care plan.

This feels like a missing piece for me. I knew the above was true about me to some extent, but attempts to explain it to most people led to them trying to isolate ADHD or autism and explain everything purely in that lens, which also often led to a degree of misunderstanding and sometimes trivialization of the difficulties I've tried to describe.

07-06-13, 04:50 PM
A fourth study comparing autism+ADHD to ADHD alone:


This pilot study aimed to compare sensory processing, motor skills and adaptive behaviors in children with a double diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (ASD+ADHD) with children with ADHD alone and to examine the association of sensory processing and motor skills with adaptive behaviors (self-care).

Thirty children aged 5-14 years diagnosed with ASD+ADHD (n = 13) or ADHD (n = 17) were evaluated on their sensory processing and motor skills and adaptive behaviors. Analysis of covariance compared the groups on these dimensions. Correlation analyses examined the association between sensory processing and motor skills and adaptive behaviors.

Compared to children with ADHD alone, children with ASD+ADHD had poorer skills in sensory processing (p < 0.001), motor (p = 0.001) and adaptive behaviors (p < 0.001). For all children, increased autonomy in self-care was correlated with better sensory processing (p < 0.001) and motor skills (p = 0.002).

Children with ASD+ADHD have poorer sensory processing, motor and adaptive skills than those with ADHD alone. Sensory processing and motor deficits were negatively associated with autonomy in self-care. Interventions aiming to improve sensory processing and motor skills and autonomy in self-care should become important targets for these children.