Diagnosing Autism and ADHD

Do you wonder if your child is autistic or has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Has your child or teen come to you and told you they think they might be autistic or have ADHD? Has a teacher raised a concern? If you feel doubtful or confused, know that you are not alone. More and more children and adults are being diagnosed or self-diagnosing themselves as having autism or ADHD. This can be confusing for both kids and adults and raise lots of questions. Learn more about autism and ADHD diagnoses here…

The increase in autism and ADHD diagnoses or self-diagnoses has multiple causes. In 1994, and again in 2013, the definition of autism was expanded by the American Psychiatric Association. In addition, autism, ADHD, and other types of neurodivergence are talked about more in the news and media, and both the public and mental health professionals have acquired a greater awareness of neurodivergent characteristics, which has led to more diagnoses.

More and more, professionals and the public understand that autism and ADHD, in particular, look differently in females and non-binary and transgender people, compared to cisgender males, therefore more people who don’t identify as cisgender male are getting diagnosed. Additionally, increased screening for autism and ADHD has led to more diagnoses. Better survival rates for pre-term babies (who are more likely to develop autism or ADHD) means more children are diagnosed. Once children or teens are diagnosed with autism or ADHD, sometimes parents and other family members seek out an assessment because they know autism and ADHD often runs in families, and they may get diagnosed too.

Because a thoughtful autism or ADHD diagnosis often involves psychological testing, which may not be covered by insurance, and because there is a shortage of testing psychologists, receiving an autism or ADHD diagnosis may be out of reach for many. As a result, more and more people are self-diagnosing themselves in attempt to understand themselves better, advocate for themselves, and navigate the world with more ease.   

Parents may feel doubtful about whether their child has autism or has ADHD because they have a specific image in mind about what an autistic child or a child with ADHD ‘looks’ like or how they behave, and their child doesn’t seem to fit that description. It is important to know that autism and ADHD both exist on a spectrum, with some individuals experiencing more severe symptoms than others. While it was once thought that these spectrums were linear, now it is more accepted that there is a spectrum that is three dimensional in nature. 

There is a saying, “Once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” This speaks to the fact that people with autism are all quite different from each other, even though they may share certain things in common. The same holds true for individuals with ADHD. As already mentioned, autism and ADHD often look very different in girls and non-binary and transgender individuals than they do in cisgender boys. Some people with autism and/or ADHD are gifted even though they have challenges with social communication or executive functioning skills, while other people with autism and/or ADHD have intellectual disabilities. Similarly, some people with autism and/or ADHD are extroverted, while others are introverted. People with autism and/or ADHD also have different physical abilities, levels of emotional intelligence, and so on.

If you or your family have questions about autism or ADHD, it may help to speak with a mental health professional. Research shows that identifying autism or ADHD early in a child’s life can help prevent mental health concerns as they get older. At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.

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