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Did my ADHD mask my autism? (and vice-versa)

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Most people think if you are autistic or an ADHDer, then you’re diagnosed as a child and then all of a sudden, it magically disappears when you turn 18. Oh, how naïve this assumption is. I didn’t even get my autism confirmed until I was 24, and my ADHD the following year. Now I’ve talked about gender-bias a lot, but what if also my autistic signs hid my ADHD, and my ADHD symptoms hid my autism. Meaning that my “behaviour” didn’t fit nicely into either category, thus going undiagnosed until I realised in my mid-20s. Here I’m going to talk about three key things that I think contributed to this.

Attention to detail  

There is a massive stereotype that all autistics are brilliant and superb at attention to detail. Well, I’m not. I miss small details because I can’t keep my attention for long, so I may notice one or two, but I’ll miss the other 20. In my autism assessment, I was praised for my good attention to detail, but that was in tested conditions with no other distractions. In the real-world when you’re working in an office or busy environment, it’s almost impossible for me to notice all the details. Also because of my dyslexia, it can be challenging to see my spelling or grammar mistakes, even with the support of assistive software, I often have to get somebody else to read over my work which is essential. I feel there is a generic view that autistics are brilliant at attention to detail and ADHDers are rubbish. For me, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, and I don’t really fit either stereotype strongly.

Liking change

I know shock horror I’m an autistic who likes change, but I think this is associated with my ADHD. Often when I don’t find something challenging any more, I feel the need to do something new and have a change in my life, I credit this to my ADHD. For example, I have my intense interests as an autistic, but I have more than one, and they can change quite frequently. There are a few consistent ones, but my interests certainly don’t fit the pattern of having only one interest that lasts a lifetime. However, when it comes to more day-to-day things like what I eat, this rarely changes. As you can see, there is a little bit of both here, and from a surface level, it may not scream autism or ADHD. Trust me they are both definitely there, even if they are not apparent from the outside.

Needing routine but not liking it

Again another standard view is that autistic people stick strictly to their routines. Well, this isn’t the case for me. I see the benefit of routine, and there is that part of me deep-down that acknowledges routine will be a positive thing in my life, but I struggle to stick with it. It’s like I can’t even get myself organised enough to execute a routine (If that makes sense). I find that my ADHD can make it challenging to get to the point were I can carry out a routine. So it’s a never-ending dilemma and I often just sit there doing nothing because I need a routine to organise myself. Still, I can’t organise myself enough to get the routine going. Having the combination of wanting routine, but not knowing how to carry it out conflicts common understandings of both autism and ADHD.

As you can see this is a really complicated issue, and I’m not saying for sure, my autism hid my ADHD and vice versa, but I do think it is a possibility as I didn’t present a way that most people would expect autism or ADHD to look like. What do you think? Do you also have both conditions? Are your experiences similar for different from mine? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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