Researchers have suggested through a new study that children with autism spectrum disorder may be over-diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Researchers say that this could happen by mistake because children with autism have autism-related social impairments and not problems with attention. If well-established screening tool is used to assess autistic children for ADHD, the results may be less accurate.
Scientists at the Centre for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the US say that one of the best screening tools for ADHD may be over-diagnosing the disorder in children with autism and the finding is important because medications that work for ADHD may be less effective for a child on the autism spectrum.
The researchers suggested that the tool they analysed, the ADHD Rating Scale Fourth Edition (ADHD-RS-IV), while well-validated in assessing ADHD in a general population of children, may overestimate ADHD in children with autism spectrum.
One complicating factor is comorbidity — an estimated 30 percent or more of children with ASD also have ADHD, said the study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The study team concluded that the tool needs to be refined to better identify the correct disorder, and that clinicians should supplement the screening tool with careful clinical interviews.