You Don’t Have to Be Einstein to Understand ADHD and Aspergers

It’s one thing to learn that your child has been diagnosed with Aspergers. And it’s one thing to live with Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult. But dealing with both ADHD and Aspergers can be a challenge.

Attention Deficit Disorder is a common co-morbid condition that can go with Aspergers.

It can be easy to miss this condition because we are so focused on the singular diagnosis of autism spectrum or Aspergers.

adhd aspergers

Attention Deficit Disorder Definition

Before you automatically assume that your child has attention deficit disorder, keep the following guidelines in mind:

a) At least six of these symptoms should be present

b) Some of these symptoms causing the impairment were present before age 7

c) Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g., at school, (or work) and at home)

d) These symptoms must be causing clinically significant impairment in either social, academic, or occupational functioning. In other words, these symptoms are more frequent, intense, and severe than what you would meet in the general population (in the average boy or girl, man or woman).

c) According to many mental health specialists, there ADD and a pervasive developmental disorder like autism/Aspergers cannot co-exist. However, many mental health professionals believe they can.

I don’t have time to get into that debate, but here are a good articles to read if you’d like to find out more:

Asperger Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder

Aspergers and ADD

In any case, the overlap is such that it’s important to recognize the similarities in symptoms and get help for minimizing the impact of those symptoms on one’s day to day life.

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) signs and symptoms to watch for:

This list of symptoms is from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. Edition.


  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Forgetful in daily activities.


  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected.
  • Runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness).
  • Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly.
  • Appears “on the go" or acts as if “driven by a motor."
  • Talks excessively.


  • Blurts out the answers before the questions have been completed.
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn.
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

Solutions For Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder

Take An ADD Online Test

Don’t be misled by the term “test.” There is no one conclusive test for diagnosing attention deficit disorder. However, the following online “quizzes” are on way to find out whether it would be a good idea to seek out a professional specializing in diagnosing ADD.

ADD in Children Online Test

This test comes from About.Com’s Pediatric section.

ADD in Adults Online Test

This test comes from PsychCentral, a well-respected online psychology resource.

Educate Yourself About ADD/ADHD


There are many attention deficit disorder websites out there, but I have been thoroughly impressed with ADDitude, the online add/adhd magazine. This site has attention deficit information about ADHD symptoms, medication, treatment, diagnosis, and parenting ADD children from the experts at ADDitude magazine

Books About Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults, (Yale University Press Health & Wellness), by Thomas E. Brown PhD

Here’s a book summary from Amazon:

A leading expert in assessment and treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder dispels myths and offers clearly written, science-based, practical information about treatments. Dr. Brown sets forth a bold new understanding of ADD/ADHD and offers compelling examples of the daily life challenges it presents for children, adolescents, and adults.

You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder, by Kate Kelly

Here’s a book summary from Amazon:

With over a quarter million copies in print, You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! is one of the bestselling books on attention deficit disorder (ADD) ever written. There is a great deal of literature about children with ADD. But what do you do if you have ADD and aren’t a child anymore? This indispensable reference — the first of its kind written for adults with ADD by adults with ADD — focuses on the experiences of adults, offering updated information, practical how-tos and moral support to help readers deal with ADD. It also explains the diagnostic process that distinguishes ADD symptoms from normal lapses in memory, lack of concentration or impulsive behavior. Here’s what’s new:

  • The new medications and their effectiveness
  • The effects of ADD on human sexuality
  • The differences between male and female ADD — including falling estrogen levels and its impact on cognitive function
  • The power of meditation
  • How to move forward with coaching

And the book still includes advice about:

  • Achieving balance by analyzing one’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Getting along in groups, at work and in intimate and family relationships — including how to decrease discord and chaos
  • Learning the mechanics and methods for getting organized and improving memory
  • Seeking professional help, including therapy and medication

Get Treatment For Attention Deficit Disorder

I would recommend that you make sure you meet with a mental health professional who understands both Aspergers and ADD/ADHD, so that you can receive treatment tailored to you/your child and your/her/his diagnosis.

I’m going to steer you to the diagnosis and treatment section of ADDitude’s website for comprehensive information about attention deficit disorder treatment.

I’ll also share this article I wrote about evidence based treatments for attention deficit disorder.

I hope you found this information about ADHD and Aspergers helpful. What are your thoughts and experiences? Please share them below!

[wpp keyword=”attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”]

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I'm Steve Borgman. I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

Are you tired of feeling alone, like you're the only one in this world? Please join the Thrive with Aspergers Community to connect with others just like you!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC

    Great article, Steve – especially important information since there are still far too many clinicians who don’t “believe” that ADD and Aspergers can co-exist. You cited two of the books I recommend most often as well – great minds think alike?

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)

  • mirandagirl

    It is a pity that this disorder was not given much attention in our community. Children who is hyper active is sometimes misunderstood as undisciplined kid. When in fact their is something in them that they cannot prevent. There should be social awareness about this since the kids are being labelled as dull and idiots when in fact they are not. I hope just like your country, Asian countries too must give attention to this, they will not become a liability to the society if we only knew the proper intervention on this kind of disorders. Anyway I should recommend this site to my nephew, this is good for his reference on mental psychology subject. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  • Stephen Borgman

    Thanks, Madelyn. I do need to further explore whether ADD and Asperger’s can co-exist, from a strictly clinical standpoint. In any case, regardless of the root causes of the symptoms, the treatment of the symptoms will often be similar.

  • Stephen Borgman

    Thank you, Miranda, I’m glad you found the article helpful.

  • Pat McGuire MD FAAP

    Very good article Stephen. I work with many children and youth with an ASD diagnosis and ADHD. But I also note many who are mislabeled as having ADHD with their ASD due to problems understanding the difference between ADHD and problems with attention. Tony Atwood describes it well in his book on Asperger’s Syndrome. He notes that there can be problems maintaining attention, paying attention to the right thing at the right time, problems shifting attention, and problems processing and storing what was attended to (I am doing this from memory so I might have missed one). Traditional ADHD meds don’t work for most of these other than the first. Fred Volkmar and Ami Kim from Harvard noted in their book on Asperger’s Syndrome that 75% of their ASD population had attention deficit problems but a number of them did not due well with ADHD meds, which could be explained by the different types of attention.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Stephen Borgman

    Pat, thank you for your very helpful input. I was definitely struck by the fact that the DSM-IVR indicates that ADHD cannot be diagnosed for a person if that person has the diagnosis of Aspergers. I’m curious, from your reading and experience, which medications seemed to help children and adults on the autism spectrum instead of the ‘traditional’ ADD/ADHD medications?

  • [email protected] treatment

    I think parents with child having ADHD should posses proper information about these condition and as you said we don’t need to be Einstein to understand ADHD.

  • Morgan Caroll

    There are at least a dozen genes associated with ADD ADHD. Some of the mutated genes can be tune down by ligands introduced in gene therapies moderating the disorder.

  • Pingback: What Everybody Ought To Know About Aspergers and College()

  • Two of my three sons are diagnosed with Asperger’s. They definitely have ADHD as well and it greatly affected there schoolwork with the attention problems. After reading every possible thing we could find, psychiatrist visits, and even attending Tony Attwood seminars, we found a pediatric neurologist 2 hours away that is very knowledgeable in Asperger’s as she has done much research in this area. We are eating Balogna sandwiches to pay for all the meds but most of all Daytrana, Vyvanse, Risperdal, Omega 3, and Magnesium have done wonders for them. They have tried other meds but these are most successful for them. They are very intelligent kids with IQs of 125 &126. The oldest is 15, skipped the 7th grade, and is in college on a dual credit program to get his associates degree along with his HS diploma. He is doing very well and we are proud. Both have progressed socially as well and the oldest has a girlfriend! But I have to wonder how many of these bright kids don’t get to reach their full potential just because the Asperger’s isn’t recognized early on or the ADHD goes untreated?

  • Stephen Borgman

    Zack, thanks for sharing your experience. Early diagnosis and parental support is very key in treating for the best outcomes. And of course, the autism spectrum is a spectrum, so success for one child could be very different than success for another child. We must measure success within their own ‘spectrum’ of strengths and weaknesses.

  • Stephen Borgman

    Thanks for the insights, Morgan.