ADHD delays autism diagnosis

Author: Ivanhoe Newswire
Published: Updated:

Children with autism who also have ADHD tend to be diagnosed with autism at a much later age.

Now, researchers at Duke University want to know why, and how to provide better treatment for better outcomes.

Like most 7-year-old boys, Darren Meeks loves to play with his monster trucks and ride his scooter. But Darren knows he’s different.

“I’m autistic so I’m more sensitive,” Darren said.

Darren was diagnosed with autism at age 4.

“He was diagnosed with ADHD a year later,” said Myranda Meeks, Darren’s mother.

“Forty to 60 percent of children with autism also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD,” said Dr. Geraldine Dawson, the Director of the Center for Autism & Brain Development at Duke University.

Dawson says we don’t know why the conditions tend to overlap, but she says children with both may get a delayed autism diagnosis.

“In fact, those children are 30 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism after age 6,” Dawson said.

So researchers at Duke University are conducting a study that focuses on early detection.

“We’re going to be following 9,000 children from the community,” Dawson said.

Researchers will measure the brain’s response to information to help them better understand the link.

“We want to see whether treating the ADHD symptoms will allow the child with autism to better benefit from early intervention,” Dawson said.

Myranda admits life has changed after the dual diagnosis. But Darren is thriving in school, and has lots of friends.

“But our brains just work differently,” Darren said.

The five-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health will also evaluate a treatment that combines behavioral intervention with medication for ADHD. The study will be starting in January. For more information visit or call 1-888-691-1062.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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