Features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impairments on neuropsychological tests of attention have been documented in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). To date there has been a lack of research comparing attention in adults with ASD and adults with ADHD. In study 1, 31 adults with ASD and average intellectual function completed self-report measures of ADHD symptoms. These were compared with self-report measures of ADHD symptoms in 38 adults with ADHD and 29 general population controls. In study 2, 28 adults with a diagnosis of ASD were compared with an age- and intelligence quotient-matched sample of 28 adults with ADHD across a range of measures of attention. Study 1 showed that 36.7% of adults with ASD met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV criteria for current ADHD "caseness" (Barkley Current self-report scores questionnaire). Those with a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified were most likely to describe ADHD symptoms. The ASD group differed significantly from both the ADHD and control groups on total and individual symptom self-report scores. On neuropsychological testing, adults with ASD and ADHD showed comparable performance on tests of selective attention. Significant group differences were seen on measures of attentional switching; adults with ADHD were significantly faster and more inaccurate, and individuals with Asperger's syndrome showed a significantly slower and more accurate response style. Self-reported rates of ADHD among adults with ASD are significantly higher in the general adult population and may be underdiagnosed. Adults with ASD have attentional difficulties on some neuropsychological measures.
- autism spectrum disorder
- attention deficity hyperactivity disorder