ADHD & Autism

The only true disability is the inability to accept and respect differences
Tanya Masse


What is ADHD?

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition.  In the UK it is estimated that 3% of the population has ADHD.   Now it is recognised that there are three key features of ADHD:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

but it is widely accepted that people with ADHD are likely to have difficulties with Executive Functioning and Emotional Regulation.

Being Inattentive may mean:

  • Difficulty paying attention to detail or a tendency to make what is perceived as careless errors in school or work.
  • Appears to not be listening.
  • Difficulty following instructions.
  • Difficulty with being organised and completing tasks.
  • Avoidance of tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • Tendency to lose things like homework, mobile phones or house keys.
  • Distractibility.
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities.

Being Impulsive may mean:

  • Excessive talking.
  • Can have a short fuse.
  • Difficulty waiting in line or taking turns.
  • Problems with interrupting or intruding.

Being hyperactive may mean

  • Fidgeting or squirming.
  • Difficulty remaining seated.
  • Excessive running or climbing.
  • Difficulty playing or working quietly.
  • Always seeming to be “on the go”.

However, it is important to remember that not everyone with ADHD is overactive.

Diagnosis of ADHD depends on a complete evaluation. The symptoms must be obvious in most areas of the child/adult’s life. General practitioners, paediatricians, psychologists or psychiatrists can make this assessment or arrange a referral. 

Medication is often used to help with ADHD and in most cases is highly successful. Extensive studies have shown these medications to be safe and effective. They are not a cure for ADHD but can help people function better at school, at home or at work. 

Common questions about ADHD

Will my child still have ADHD when they grow up?
Children do not outgrow ADHD, although many symptoms appear to improve with maturity as people learn strategies to manage it.

How long should medication be continued?
For as long as it remains beneficial – could be a few months or several years.

What is Autism?

Coming Soon – “What is autism: an autistic perspective”?

What is Autism?

Autism is classed as a lifelong neurodevelopmental difference that affects how people perceive the world and others around them.  It is typically referred to as autism, autistic spectrum or an autism spectrum condition (though clinicians will often still use disorder). 

Autism is lifelong but is by no means a life sentence.  It is not a disease that needs to be ‘cured’.  With the right support, autistic people can live a happy and fulfilled life.

The language we use to describe autism is really important.  CAAS tend to use the term ‘autistic’ rather than ‘has autism’ following research published in the Autism journal in 2015 which looked at the language used. Although there was no single preferred term across individuals, parents/carers and professionals, it found that autistic adults prefer identity-first terms like autistic.  It is important for CAAS to reflect that preference in our practice.

The key areas of difference needed to be given a diagnosis of autism are:

Differences in social communication and interaction:

Examples of difficulty with social communication:

  • Not being able to speak or being ‘selectively’ mute.
  • Difficulty using and understanding appropriate body language/facial expressions or tone of voice.
  • Echolalia or repetition of words/phrases.
  • A literal understanding of language.
  • Wanting to interact but struggling with initiating a conversation or small talk, preferring the conversation to focus on their interest.

Examples of difficulties with social interaction:

  • Difficulty reading other people, recognising their feelings or intentions based on context.
  • Social anxiety and misunderstanding of unwritten social rules.
  • May find it difficult to form or maintain friendships.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities including sensory difficulties:

  • Some autistic individuals have a strong preference for routine and sameness due to the unpredictability of the world around them.  Some may find new and unfamiliar experiences stressful, threatening and confusing.
  • Some autistic individuals may have special interests, which can be important for their wellbeing.
  • Many autistic people experience the sensory world differently which can cause both pleasure and distress.

What causes autism?

Research suggests that a combination of factors – genetic and environmental – may account for differences in brain development.  

There’s no specific test for autism. Diagnosis is based on the observation of behaviours.

There is no cure or medical treatment for autism. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Much support can be put in place to maximise a child’s potential and this is vital to a fulfilling life. Appropriate education, speech/language and occupational therapy are all important.