Study found 1 in 5 kids with attention disorder also had autistic-type traitsKids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are 20 times more likely to exhibit some traits of autism than children without ADHD, according to a new study.
One of every five ADHD kids in the study exhibited signs of autism such as slow language development, difficulty interacting with others and problems with emotional control, said study co-author Dr. Joseph Biederman, director of the pediatric psychopharmacology unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.
These kids also showed problems with "executive function," or the ability to plan, organize and conceptualize future action, said Biederman, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Fewer than 1 percent of kids in the non-ADHD comparison group exhibited any traits linked to autism, according to the study appearing in the September issue of Pediatrics.
"These children are not having the full diagnosis of autism, but they have symptoms of autism," Biederman said. "It may be important to screen children with ADHD for autistic traits because they may need more support, particularly in the educational and interpersonal domains."
Previous studies of children with autism have found that many also have severe ADHD symptoms. This is one of the first studies to turn the tables and see if the reverse is true, said Dr. Alice Mao, an associate professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. She was not involved with the study.
"Generally, autistic kids with ADHD are challenging to treat because they don't respond well to ADHD medications," Mao said. "You have to treat the autism symptoms and then treat the ADHD. The conclusion would be that perhaps we should screen these ADHD kids who are not doing well on traditional ADHD treatments to see if they have comorbid autism traits."
The study included 242 kids aged 6 to 18 with ADHD as well as a 227-member "control" group of kids without ADHD. The children were drawn from an existing large-scale sample pool that excluded any kids who had been diagnosed with autism.
Read the story at USNews.com