Autism and ADHD, two distinct examples of neurodivergent conditions, however, two conditions which, often, overlap.
Whereas the prevalence of ADHD in the general population sits at around 10%, amongst people with Autism, it is estimated to be much higher, between 50-70%.*
*(Note: these are US based statistics).
People with Autism are therefore, evidently, significantly more likely to have ADHD compared to people without Autism, and vice versa (people with ADHD are also more likely to have Autism compared to people without)…
It is this overlap of Autism and ADHD that led to a ‘new’ diagnosis being formed, ‘AuDHD’, (the abbreviation for comorbid autism and ADHD), which is now, as of 2013, a diagnosis in its own right…
Whilst it’s great that people can now be diagnosed with both Autism and ADHD if their symptoms overlap, (‘Great’ because, prior to 2013, psychiatrists were unable(/unwilling) to diagnose a child as having autism as well as ADHD), I can’t help but question whether we should be scrapping the labels altogether?
Given the very high comorbidity rates, would it not be worth considering whether Autism and ADHD are, in fact, simply different manifestations of a single condition?
‘Are we looking at one condition that’s on a continuum, or two distinct conditions?
ADHD and ASD may be different manifestation of the same overarching disorder that may manifest differently in multiple family members.‘
–– Geraldine Dawson, American Psychologist.
This proposal is supported by several studies which serve to highlight the prevalence of ADHD and/or Autism in siblings.
For younger siblings of a child with ADHD, the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD are found to be 13 times higher, and the odds of being diagnosed with Autism 4.4 times higher, when compared with siblings of non-diagnosed (i.e., neurotypical) children.
Based on this, then, based on the research backed evidence regarding the extremely high comorbidity rates of Autism and ADHD, wouldn’t ‘neurodiversity’, a term that encompasses all conditions under one ‘umbrella’ term, be a better term to use, as opposed to ‘Autism’/’ADHD’/AuDHD’- ‘hard and fast’ labels that blindly put people in one box or another, without reflecting the complexity of their conditions?
As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of labels, (I think they can be quite limiting), maybe I’m biased, but, what with the evidence suggesting that Autism and ADHD aren’t quite as distinct as we first assumed- are the distinctions entirely artificial, even?- having ‘neurodiversity to replace the different terms, much like we had ‘ASD’ replace the individual terms of ‘Autism’ and ‘Asperger’s’, it would, in my opinion, make perfect sense. I’m not saying that the terms should go, people should have the choice to use any label they want to use to define who they are, but, I do think that changing the ‘official’ term to one that is more encompassing of the complex nature of Autism/ADHD/AuDHD, could only be a positive move, and one that many people, myself included, would favour. No more loaded labels, no more division, it would enable us to focus our attention, not on determining whether we have Autism or ADHD or a combination of the two or, perhaps some secret third thing, but on living our lives and reaching our greatest potential, in all our wonderful, neurodivergent glory.
So, is it time for a label overhaul?
Is it time for ‘neurodivergent’ to become an official diagnosis?
The choice is yours, but it’s good to have the option.
My choice? I’m neurodivergent, and I’m leaning into that label. Given the chance, I wouldn’t want to be ‘normal’ anyway, I’ve actually grown to quite like my brain (and all its weirdness)!