Autistic spectrum disorder traits in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder


Puja Kochhar, Division of Psychiatry, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, Derby Road, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK


Background  Current classification systems do not allow for comorbid diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ADHD are often screened for ASD during clinical assessment and when recruited to clinical trials. We predicted that children with ADHD would have more autistic traits than controls and that certain traits would be more prevalent.

Methods  The clinically referred sample consisted of 30 children with ADHD and 30 matched controls aged 9–15 years. Children were screened for ASD traits using the Social Aptitudes Scale (SAS) and the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ).

Results  We found that ASD traits were significantly higher in children with ADHD than controls. None of the children received a diagnosis of autism or ASD. However, a large proportion (28% using the SCQ and 62% using the SAS) of children with ADHD reached screening thresholds for a predictive diagnosis of ASD. Relative to controls, children with ADHD had significantly higher levels of communication and social deficits, but not repetitive behaviours.

Conclusion  Further work is needed to establish whether autistic-like communication and social difficulties in children with ADHD are part of the broader ASD phenotype or are specific to ADHD.