What are the differences between ADHD and Autism?

According to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS, 2019), about 424,000 children in Malaysia are affected by mental health issues. Among the more common ones that we may have heard is  ADHD and autism. Both are neurodevelopmental disorders that could share some similar symptoms, and both conditions can be present at the same time. Although there are online autism tests and online ADHD tests in Malaysia , sometimes, it may not accurately reflect difficulties that the child may be experiencing. Parents can now have access to a free pediatric test online to better understand whether these difficulties are considered concerning, and eventually help their child grow. 

What is ADHD?

An abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD is characterised by difficulties in keeping attention. Individuals with ADHD also have poorer impulse control and are overall very hyperactive. Some children with ADHD may face difficulties in learning as they are unable to stay focused and have a shorter attention span.  Since ADHD can be hereditary due to genetics or biological factors, seeking intervention at a young age can help children to better manage the condition.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition that affects a person’s ability to adapt to changes in their environment, with difficulties in social-behaviour and communication skills. They may be seen as rigid, inflexible, and have obsessive behavior towards the things that they enjoy or interest them. The reverse is also true where they don't engage with skills that disinterest them. At the same time, individuals with autism also usually face communicative difficulties and problems relating with others. This may in turn lead to difficulties developing and maintaining friendships. Most autism cases are handled on a case-by-case basis as each individual may exhibit different behaviour. Similar to ADHD, autism is also hereditary due to biological factors, seeking intervention at a young age can help children to better manage the condition.

Main Differences

Paying Attention

Children with ADHD have difficulty in maintaining their attention span. They are usually restless and cannot focus on specific tasks for long periods. They can also be easily distracted while learning. On the other hand, autistic children may be extremely focused or obsessive over their favourite topic or subjects, but will not engage in subjects that disinterest them.



Here, the difference can be more stark. Some individuals with ADHD tend to be overly talkative. They usually speak continuously without breaks and may even interrupt others mid-sentence. For many parents, they simply dismiss this as being talkative. On the other hand, autistic individuals may find it difficult to properly express themselves. They may not have traditional social conventions such as maintaining eye contact, using gestures and turn-taking. 

How to know if your child has ADHD or autism?

If you are noticing that your child is showing the above behaviour, getting them diagnosed by a mental health professional like clinical psychologist, or pediatrician is the most accurate and reliable method. Other than that, parents or caretakers can also take an online assessment. ]The Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 is a brief screening questionnaire designed to facilitate the recognition of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems in children ages 4 to 17. This online ADHD and autism test that can give a general indication of your child’s condition, and recommend if further actions are needed.

You can now take the Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 right here, available in both English and Chinese.


In The Press