5-year study at Duke University to look into link between ADHD, autism

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Health experts said children with autism who also have ADHD tend to be diagnosed with autism at a much later age, and researchers set out to find out why.

Darren Meeks is like most 7-year-olds. He loves to play with his monster trucks and ride his scooter. But he also know he's different.

"I'm autistic so I'm more sensitive," he said.

Darren was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 and one year later ADHD, his mother Myranda said.

"Forty to 60 percent of children with autism also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD," said Dr. Geraldine Dawson, of Duke University.

Dawson said we won't know why the conditions tend to overlap, but she said children with both may get a delayed autism diagnosis.

"In fact, those children are 30 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism after age 6," she said.

Researchers at Duke University are conducting a study that focuses on early detection. Dawson said 9,000 children from the community will be part of the study.

The researchers will measure the brain's response to information to help them better understand the link.

"We want to see whether treating the ADHD symptoms will allow the child with autism to better benefit from early intervention," Dawson said.

Myranda admits life has changed after the dual diagnosis, but Darren is thriving in school and has a lot of friends.

The five-year study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and will also evaluate a treatment that combines behavioral intervention with medication for ADHD. The study begins in January.
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