Yesterday I read my first journal article on combined autism and ADHD research. Given how little information is available in accessible formats (books, courses, etc.), I decided to go straight to the research.
Reading psychology research is no easy feat. Although it can be frustrating and mind-numbing to read, it seems to be the best route to take at this point if any clarity is to be found. As an AuDHD person, my mind loves to understand.
Here’s what I understand about AuDHD now: The field doesn’t understand or know much. Yes, the irony is great. I’ve written about why that is in my essay Where Are We With Our Understanding of Combined Autism and ADHD?
While that could make me throw my hands up in the air in frustration, by reading the research I can see where the field is at.
I started recently with the first article that came up, “The Co-Occurrence of Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children - What Do We Know?”
I selected this article because it was at the top and it asked the same question I’m wondering, “What do we know?” Now, this article was written in 2014, so we’ve had 9 years to learn more since then, but I thought it would be a good place to start.
The main conclusions of the article (which was based on preschool children) were that the outcomes of AuDHD kids are poorer than kids with just one neurodivergence.
I suspect that this may remain true today for kids in school, if the outcome measures are based on school performance, behavior at school, and the like. However, I would love to see some outcome measures for adulthood. I would bet there are far more entrepreneurs and delightfully creative people. I’ll let you know when I get there in the research.
The article also noted that there are two major hypotheses around the co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD.
Hypothesis 1: “ADHD and autism are distinct, yet overlapping disorders which may share some common etiology, probably genetic.”
Hypothesis 2: “The co-occurrence of autistic symptoms and ADHD ‘stands alone’ as a distinct clinical disorder, with a distinct etiology, and a different development trajectory.”
In layman’s terms? Hypothesis 1 is that there is no AuDHD, just two separate “disorders” with some overlap. Hypothesis 2 is that AuDHD exists as its own “disorder.”
I’d love some other hypothesis, please. I’m actually excited to keep reading in the research to see what else comes up.
My current hypothesis is that autism and ADHD are both forms of neurodivergence. I think that autistics experience ADHD characteristics, but in varying degrees. Some autistics have intense enough characteristics (such as a hyperactive mind) that they meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD as well.
This is where I stand at the beginning of my research journey, and I’m excited to see how my own understanding and ideas evolve from here.