Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is sometimes diagnosed alongside autism. 

ADHD is most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, although the symptoms of ADHD can persist into adulthood. 

Signs of ADHD include

  • hyperactivity & impulsivity
  • being abnormally active, and acting without thinking
  • being unable to sit still, or constantly fidgeting
  • difficulty focusing
  • having a short attention span
  • difficulty concentrating

Common symptoms of ADHD in autism

ADHD is most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.

Some people with ADHD are hyperactive and impulsive. This means they

  • can't wait their turn 
  • act without thinking 
  • can't sit still or constantly fidget 
  • talk excessively
  • interrupt conversations 

Some people with ADHD have difficulty focusing. This means they

  • have a short attention span 
  • are easily distracted 
  • lose things or are forgetful 
  • have difficulty concentrating 
  • have difficulty staying organised

These problems can significantly impact day-to-day life and may lead to problems at school, such as under-performance. Symptoms from childhood often persist into adulthood, but may be experienced differently. In adults, ADHD can lead to issues with employment, drugs and alcohol.

In both children and adults, ADHD can occur with other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Mental health conditions are more common in autistic people. [Read more about anxiety and depression in autism].

Suicide is more common in autism that in the general population, and some researchers believe ADHD is a risk factor for suicidality in autism. [Read more about suicide and autism].


What you can do about ADHD

Jump to: See your doctor Medication Talking therapy Co-occurring conditions

Treatments for ADHD can help the symptoms be more manageable in day-to-day life.

See your doctor

Autistic people tell us that going to the doctor can be stressful because they feel that health professionals do not understand their needs. But seeing your doctor if you think you may have ADHD is an important step towards looking after yourself. 

Read our advice for seeing your doctor.

Medication

Different types of medication are available for ADHD. These medications are not a cure for ADHD, but may help someone feel better in their day-to-day life. For example, medication may help to increase concentration and reduce distractibility. Make sure you always tell the doctor or therapist about your autism because it may affect the treatment you are prescribed and how your doctor communicates with you.

Talking therapy

A number of talking therapies can help people with ADHD manage their behaviours. Behaviour therapy can be used to encourage children with ADHD to behave in a certain way, and avoid other behaviours. Other therapies include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), parent training and education programmes, and social skills training. 

Co-occurring conditions

Autism is related to many other conditions. Find out more about co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression.