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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Why Reading Research Papers about Combined Autism and ADHD is Rough

There are hardly any accessible, straightforward resources on combined autism and ADHD (AuDHD). I discuss some explanations as to why in my essays Where Are All of the Good Resources about Autism with ADHD? and Where Are We With Our Understanding of Combined Autism and ADHD?

In case you couldn’t tell from the titles of my essays, I’m frustrated that there is not more information about AuDHD. I think it is an injustice to be diagnosed with both (which I am) and then not be supplied with information about what that means.

So last night I decided to start the arduous work of reading through journals and research papers about combined autism and ADHD. Why do I call it arduous work?

Oh, let me count the ways:

A painting filled with overlapping circles in varying hues of grey, red and white with a dark background by artist Jackie Schuld.
Painting by Jackie Schuld

Finding relevant articles in the first place. The minute I searched for “combined autism and ADHD,” I was hit with a bunch of articles about children. While this is a good start, it’s just not relevant to me or the population of adults that I work with.

Exposing oneself to the negative lens of the medical model. Most research describes autism as a “disorder” and solely focuses on the negative “symptoms” and “behaviors.” Reading these articles can be awfully depressing and make you forget about all of the positives of being autistic.

Figuring out what data is relevant or not. The first article that I read “The Co-Occurence of Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children - What Do We Know?” reviewed studies and declared that outcomes are worse for someone diagnosed with autism and ADHD than for someone with just one. Now I could apply this to myself, but that would be inaccurate.

First of all, they were reviewing young children and primarily looking at “outcomes” such as performance in school and appropriate classroom behavior.

Second, the studies they use rely on the medical model of autism, which means they’re only looking at the negative characteristics. They’re not tracking the positive characteristics. So an AuDHD child might have worse “outcomes,” but they’re not even measuring some positive aspects of AuDHD like creativity, joy, innovation, and the like.

The author of this article also noted that the studies they reviewed had limitations because of the use of rating scales rather than direct clinical measures to evaluate either ADHD or ASD.”

This is why I say reading these research papers is rough. It is truly an exercise of mental acuity and stamina. However, I am determined to do it because I want more clarity on the subject, I want to know where the field stands on the subject, and I want to start providing the information that I wish I had.


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