Symptoms Can Overlap: Autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing, Depression and Anxiety

by | Last updated Jan 25, 2021

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If you’re confused about how to identify what is truly going on with your child, Clear can help. Read below for more detailed info. 

When parents are worried about their children, often they hear a lot of different information that  can be confusing or scary. A good evaluation can bring clarity and create a path to success. Many families tell us they feel better once they have a good evaluation and a plan.

At CLEAR, we specialize in autism and related challenges like ADHD, sensory symptoms, depression and anxiety.

Autism can be complex and may overlap with many other diagnoses. This is important to consider because a clear understanding of your child can create a more effective treatment plan.

  1. Sometimes, autism is suspected, but anxiety, ADHD, trauma, attachment or another disability is the underlying problem instead. 
  2. Other times, more than one diagnosis is applicable. Children with autism are at a higher risk for having other disabilities like ADHD and anxiety. Sensory Processing challenges are also common symptoms for kids with autism, ADHD and anxiety. 

Autism & ADHD:

Many children with autism are first diagnosed with ADHD. That does not necessarily mean that the diagnosis is wrong. Up to 60% of children on the autism spectrum may also have ADHD. 

  • Sometimes the tendency for a child on the Spectrum to be internally distracted, or very focused on something in their head, may look to observers like a lack of focused attention. 
  • Sometimes children with autism don’t shift attention well, thus they may be doing what the rest of the class was doing 20 minutes ago. This behavior could look inattentive or defiant. 

Autism & Anxiety:

Up to 42% of children on the autism spectrum may also have significant anxiety. 

  • Children with ASD are more likely to have a Phobia than the general population.
  • Sometimes children with autism can be bossy or controlling. 
  • Often children with ASD are anxious because they struggle in social situations and do best when things are predictable. 

Many girls on the Spectrum are diagnosed with anxiety first. 

  • Autism can be harder to spot in girls because some symptoms like restricted interests may be harder to notice in girls. 
  • Girls also may tend to have better nonverbal communication skills and better coping skills. 

Autism & Depression:

50% of individuals on the autism spectrum may experience depression in their lifetime. 

  • Sometimes, teens with ASD really struggle to express and put words to feelings. They may report feeling “nothing at all,” but others may notice signs of depression. These kids might perceive mistreatment from peers when it is not there. 
  • Children with autism are also more likely to experience bullying. 

Autism Spectrum Disorders can be confused with trauma, OCD and attachment disorders. 

  • Sometimes social behavior is impaired for reasons that are not autism. 
  • Some children on the Spectrum have other underlying medical challenges while others do not. 
  • Often children struggle with sleep, eating patterns, toileting or significant sensory difficulties. 

If you’re a parent and are confused about overlapping diagnosis, Clear can help.

These complexities make it so important to have a thorough evaluation with a clinician who really understands autism and related symptoms and diagnoses. It can be very confusing for a parent to navigate. 

The real goal is to make sure a child gets the right kind of diagnosis and treatment to address their specific challenges and live their best life. 

Schedule a FREE 20-minute discovery session to understand the complexities of your individual child. 

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