I recently read a research paper about co-occurring autism and ADHD entitled “The Co-Occurence of Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children — What Do We Know?". They note how little is known about the impact of being diagnosed with both.
What I found particularly interesting is that despite the limitations of knowledge, they suggest not waiting for the knowledge to catch up. Instead, they note, “intervention should be the main goal, and not necessarily the categorical diagnosis.”
They recommend that if a child meets the criteria for Autism and ADHD, start using interventions designed for each one.
I think the same applies to self-identified neurodivergents.
Let me explain. When you are self-identified as autistic or ADHD, you could get easily caught up in whether that is “right” or “valid” or “accurate” or whatever word you want to use. You could also wonder how “severe” your characteristics are.
It’s an easy world of self-questioning to get sucked into. Instead of questioning your own validity, start using strategies designed for your neurotype.
For example, if you self-identify as autistic, you can use the following strategies for your sensory system:
Decrease exposure to negatively impactful stimuli. For example, remove clothes in your wardrobe that don’t feel good to your body.
Plan for downtime after stimulating environments. We cannot always avoid places that overwhelm us. In this case, we can plan for downtime afterward in which we have no sensory input. This typically looks like being at home in a room by ourselves with a preferred activity (such as doing a puzzle or playing a game on our phones).
Enhance your environment with things that are pleasing to your senses. Add colors or art that delights you. Fill your space with textures that feel good. Being autistic isn’t just about limiting things that bother you, it’s also about expanding into things that you love.
I provide these examples to show that you can enhance your life in key ways, even if you’re not 100% sure you’re autistic. If these changes make your life better, it doesn’t matter if you’re autistic or not. Your life is better and you can bask in that.
If you’d like to read more strategies to enhance your autistic life, you can read my essay Learning Autism Strategies as an Adult.
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