This week’s Check in and Chat was hosted by Liz Stanley, SPACE’s Training Lead, who led us through a whistle stop tour of SPACE’s Understanding Autism and ADHD Workshop. We covered:

  • What is Autism and ADHD
  • The characteristics of Autism and ADHD
  • Executive Functioning and Emotional Regulation
  • The impact of a dual diagnosis
Liz Stanley, Training Lead, SPACE Hertfordshire

There was so much helpful information in just this brief overview that it is really worth keeping an eye out for the next workshop – they are very popular so please do follow us on Facebook and Eventbrite if you don’t already to make sure you don’t miss it.

Liz opened by saying that a lot of people think that ADHD is on the autistic spectrum but they are actually two separate conditions that can co-occur:

“…ADHD and Autism are two separate and conditions that happen to be found together much more frequently than would be expected by chance alone. The patients have two life-long conditions that will affect every moment of their lives”

Dr William Dobson

One condition can sometimes appear more prevalent and ‘hide’ the other condition. It is quite common for example that someone with co-occuring conditions can suddenly appear more autistic when they start taking ADHD medication. The person and the conditions themselves haven’t changed but as one becomes ‘more managed’, the other can become ‘more seen’.

As Liz explained, one of the consequences of a dual diagnosis is that it can be difficult to identify which condition is creating the challenges and therefore which strategies to employ. Take executive functioning for instance – most people with autism will experience some difficulties with executive functioning, as will most people with ADHD, but this can manifest itself very differently. For example, an Autistic person may struggle to start a task because they are over-thinking it, whereas someone with ADHD may struggle to start because they simply don’t know where to start.

Liz went through the characteristics of both Autism and ADHD (in the full workshop there is also detailed information about diagnostic criteria) and whilst the primary characteristics are different there is also quite a lot of overlap. Again, the key (and often the challenge!) is to get to the bottom of what is causing any difficulties in order to help them. So for example, both conditions can cause social challenges and friendship issues. For Autistic children this will often be because they don’t instinctively understand what a friend is, can’t interpret non-verbal communication or need to be taught unwritten social ‘norms’. For children with ADHD however it is more likely to be because of an inability to organise their thoughts or because of their impulsivity.

Another implication of a dual diagnosis is that a dual diagnosis brain can experience a high level of conflict – for example ADHD impulsivity sat alongside an autistic need for a high level of routine.

Liz went through some very useful strategies – again, these are covered in much more depth in the full workshop – and summarised by saying that when channelled there is nothing our children can’t achieve!

“That was a really useful overview, thank you”

“Thank you so much that has really helped my understanding”

Our Check in and Chats and workshops are always very popular. Please join our Facebook community and follow us on Eventbrite to get your tickets when events launch.