It is not uncommon for ASD and ADHD to be given as a dual diagnosis. I’ve been considering if, when they occur together, rather than being comorbid, they in fact complement or compensate for each other. The classical symptoms of ADHD include distraction, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The classic symptoms of ASD include obsession/hyperfocus, a love of routine and predictability and a tendency for social isolation. Clearly this is stereotypical but I am simplifying here for a moment, while I explore an idea.
I have ADHD and my mind flies around, bursting with ideas. I can be impulsive, with a tendency to blurt and easily get overexcited. I also have autistic traits, awaiting diagnosis. My autistic side loves predictability, hates excessive demands and prefers solitude and quiet contemplation. These two might seem contradictory, but they act as moderators for each other. They coexist at the same time, although sometimes one or other may be slightly dominant. Sometimes they conspire to get me in a panic. Overall I think they help each other.
My ASD hyperfocus helps my ADHD to get focused and stick to a task. On her own my ADHD gets so excited about something that she wants me to leap around shouting, or alternatively she gets bored and wanders off. My ADHD is bursting with ideas and darts off in unexpected directions to bring back a fresh perspective. This helps my ASD to open up and not get too stuck in a rut. My ADHD has a tendency to blurt what I’m thinking before I’ve assessed the situation. My ASD might not be great at assessing the situation either, but has sufficient inhibition and dislike of making a fuss to make me bite my tongue. My ASD gets tired easily, especially when it comes to auditory processing and is another way she calms down my ADHD from throwing me into excessive social peril. Together ADHD and ASD love to think and create. ASD helps my ADHD to stay on track and not run off chattering inanely to the nearest person, so they can work together. ASD needs ADHD’s bright ideas and energy. ASD can get the quiet she needs if ADHD is kept occupied with some exciting revelations to chew on. ASD has some awesome topics that she wants to work through and ADHD is only too happy to bounce these around and see what she can make with them. She can also spot when ASD is overthinking and pull her out of her ruminations.
ADHD doesn’t like to be too constrained by rules and routines. She finds them too boring. She might get into trouble. ASD craves predictability and likes to do things correctly. She might sometimes miss out on opportunities. ADHD and ASD are good together, like Howard Moon and Vince Noir.