This article about Autism and ADHD stems from the following question from a subscriber: ‘My son is diagnosed with PDD Autism – we have put him on Ritalin for behaviors and hyperactivity. Our family doctor feels that since the Ritalin has helped that he must also be ADHD. Could that be correct?’
As I wrote about in a previous article: Autism, Aspergers and ADHD, yes it could be correct that a child can have Autism and ADHD. In fact there is about a 50 to 60% chance of kids with autism having an ADHD diagnosis.
I do want to caution you about this kind of logic. I don’t like making a diagnosis because a medicine worked.
In other words just because Ritalin settled down some of the behavioral problems that your son was experiencing doesn’t necessarily mean that for sure your son has ADHD.
If you are concerned about the possibility of ADHD, go to a clinician who can do a thorough assessment, such as a paediatrician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. Have a thorough assessment done and see what the results are.
The medication treatments in child psychiatry are symptom specific not disease specific. This means that the medications treat symptoms, not disorders.
So if he had some hyperactivity related to Autism that may be settled by the Ritalin as Ritalin and other stimulants (like Adderall, Concerta, Metadate, Focalin, Daytrana, etc) have a clear history of helping hyperactivity and inattention in ADHD.
However, based on my experience as a Child Psychiatrist, I think it is possibe if the Ritalin is working then there may actually be a diagnosis of ADHD. However, the best practice of medicine would be to go and get a thorough assessment. This is the proper way, rather than just saying: ‘well the pill worked so it must be so’.