Can you have ADHD & autism?

It is possible for an individual to have both ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and autism. In fact, research has shown that more than half of all individuals diagnosed with ASD also display signs of ADHD. These signs often include difficulties with attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity.

On the other hand, the relationship between ADHD and ASD is somewhat asymmetrical. While a substantial number of individuals with ASD also exhibit ADHD symptoms, only up to a quarter of children diagnosed with ADHD show low-level signs of ASD. [i]

This means that even though autism and ADHD can run together, they are not the same.

However, having autism and ADHD can present unique challenges in diagnosis and treatment, requiring a comprehensive assessment to address both sets of symptoms effectively.

For decades, the Drake Institute has used advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with autism, ADHD, and other brain-based conditions. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ASD and ADHD patients reduce their symptoms and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and several other brain-based conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.


What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder impacting both children and adults. Individuals with ADHD struggle with maintaining attention and may experience impulse control difficulties, sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity. These symptoms can result in challenges at school, work, and in social situations.

Research suggests a combination of genetic factors, and environmental influences, including complications during pregnancy, labor, and delivery may contribute to the development of ADHD.

Studies have identified differences in brain functioning in individuals with ADHD, particularly in regions associated with attention, executive functions, inhibition, and reward processing. Environmental factors, such as prenatal exposure to alcohol or tobacco, premature birth, and low birth weight, have also been associated with an elevated risk of developing ADHD.

Proper treatment can help individuals with ADHD improve their attention, reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, and develop successful lives. [ii] In fact, the Drake Institute has helped some ADHD patients that no longer meet the criteria for diagnosis after completing their treatment.

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is characterized by a range of symptoms that affect an individual's ability to focus, control impulses, and regulate their behavior. Broadly, these symptoms can be categorized into two main groups: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Inattentive symptoms typically involve difficulties with sustaining attention, staying organized, following through on tasks, forgetfulness, and often making careless mistakes. Hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms manifest as restlessness, difficulty sitting still, and impulsive behavior including interrupting, blurting out, and doing things on impulse without thinking first.

The severity and combination of these symptoms can vary among individuals, leading to different subtypes of ADHD.

ADHD: (Inattentive presentation)

  • Inattention
  • Easily distracted
  • Lack of sustained focus on non-preferred tasks
  • Difficulty finishing tasks such as homework without supervision
  • Poor short-term memory (i.e., difficulty following a series of instructions)
  • Often forgetful, such as forgetting homework or turning it in
  • Poor listening skills

ADHD: (Hyperactive-impulsive presentation)

  • Impulsive (acting without thinking of the consequences, blurting out answers, interrupting, having trouble waiting one's turn)
  • Hyperactive (fidgety and/or difficulty sitting still)

ADHD: (Combined presentation)

  • Inattentive symptoms along with hyperactivity/impulsivity

ADHD: (Unspecified ADHD)

  • Significant clinical impairment but does not meet full criteria of ADHD symptoms

What is autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and includes repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.

In May 2013, autism underwent a reclassification by the DSM-5, leading to the term autism spectrum disorder. This new classification merged previously separate conditions like Autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified), and childhood disintegrative disorder into a unified category. All these conditions share a connection to brain regulation and can impact every major area of the patient’s life, especially social communication.

There are three levels of autism, categorized by the level of support needed.

Level 1

Individuals at Level 1 of the autism spectrum typically exhibit mild symptoms. They often have challenges with social interactions, such as difficulty initiating conversations or forming friendships. They may also struggle with adapting to changes in routines and may display repetitive behaviors. However, with support and interventions, individuals at this level can lead fulfilling lives, often achieving success in academics and work. [iii] Of the three levels of Autism, these patients require the least support.

Level 2

At Level 2, individuals with autism display moderate symptoms that require substantial support. They may face more pronounced difficulties in social communication, struggle with sensory sensitivities, and exhibit repetitive behaviors that can interfere with daily life. Assistance is crucial to help them navigate these challenges, enabling them to develop essential life skills and improve their ability to develop and maintain social relationships. [iv]

Level 3

This level represents individuals with severe autism symptoms who require extensive support in various aspects of life. They may have limited verbal communication, significant social impairments, and intense sensory sensitivities. Daily living can be highly challenging, necessitating consistent and specialized support to address their unique needs. With the right interventions and assistance, individuals at this level can still make progress and improve their quality of life, although they may require substantial support throughout their lives. [v]

Signs & symptoms of autism

The signs and symptoms of autism are related to how one interacts with others, plays, and communicates. The severity of symptoms can vary, and many can be observed as early as 9 months old. In some cases, an accurate diagnosis can be made by two years old.

Below are the specific symptoms identified in early childhood: [vi]

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Lack of facial expressions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.) by 9 months of age
  • Doesn’t play simple interactive games (e.g., pat-e-cake) by 12 months of age
  • Uses few or no hand gestures (e.g., doesn’t wave hello or goodbye) by 12 months of age
  • Doesn’t share interests with others (e.g., doesn’t show you their favorite toy) by 15 months of age
  • Doesn’t point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice other children and play with them by 36 months of age
  • Doesn’t pretend to be someone else (e.g., teacher, superhero, etc.) by 48 months of age
  • Doesn’t sing, act, or dance for you by 60 months of age

Is it possible to have ADHD & autism at the same time?

It is possible to have ADHD and autism at the same time.

Yes, having autism and ADHD is possible. In fact, it’s relatively common (up to 50% or higher)[vii] for individuals with autism to also exhibit signs of ADHD, making these coexisting disorders frequent. However, the reverse scenario is less common, with approximately 25% of children with ADHD showing symptoms of ASD. [viii]

Recognizing signs you have ADHD and autism is essential for early diagnosis and intervention, which can improve clinical outcomes and quality of life. [ix]

How is ADHD different from autism?

Although similar, there a several important differences between autism and ADHD.

Individuals with autism may struggle with noticeably impaired communication and social interactions, and exhibit restricted or repetitive behaviors. However, ADHD individuals will show primary difficulties with paying attention and/or controlling their hyperactivity and impulses. 

While autism is generally a lifelong diagnosis, some children may actually outgrow ADHD symptoms, though many will continue to struggle with the disorder into their adult life. Individuals who seek and receive proper treatment can minimize the symptoms and disruption in their lives. If you're unsure whether your child has autism or ADHD, consult your pediatrician for an initial screening. [x] [xi]

How are ADHD and autism alike?

Both ADHD and ASD impact brain development, with ASD being more severe and causing significant abnormal functional connectivity in the brain. The whole brain can be dysregulated in autism patients, whereas with ADHD most commonly it’s the frontal lobe and midline or cingulate that is dysregulated.

Both disorders can be lifelong, but this is more expected in ASD. There are individuals who do outgrow ADHD, but they tend to be the minority.

It’s common that many autism patients also suffer from ADHD symptoms, though ASD is their primary disorder.

For both disorders, early diagnosis and treatment produce better treatment outcomes.[xii]

How are ADHD and autism diagnosed?

Diagnosing ADHD and autism involves assessments, observations, and evaluations. Diagnosis for both conditions requires adherence to the guidelines set out in the DSM-5. The Drake Institute includes a qEEG brain map to identify dysregulated networks in the brain linked to symptoms.


ADHD diagnosis involves a comprehensive assessment process. Clinicians rely on the criteria outlined in the DSM-5. This assessment considers an individual's symptoms, their duration, and their impact on daily life to make an accurate diagnosis.

Observations from both home and school settings play a crucial role in understanding the full scope of an individual's behavior and challenges. [xiii]


Diagnosing autism involves a comprehensive evaluation process that encompasses multiple aspects. Clinicians use criteria specified in the DSM-5 to assess an individual's symptoms and their impact on daily life.

Observations of an individual's behavior and social interactions, often collected from different settings like home and school, are helpful in determining the degree of severity (Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 Autism) and support that may be needed.

This thorough evaluation process helps ensure an accurate diagnosis and guides appropriate interventions and support.

Autism screenings are performed at well-child visits at specific ages. However, if symptoms are identified, an evaluation may be requested at any time. [xiv]

Can children outgrow ADHD or autism? 

Autism and ADHD are both typically considered to be lifelong conditions.

However, symptoms can be improved, especially via early diagnosis and intervention. In fact, at the Drake Institute, we have helped ADHD patients that no longer meet criteria for diagnosis following the completion of treatment.

With ASD, Drake has also seen a small percentage of patients that no longer meet criteria for diagnosis following the completion of treatment. However, most ASD patients will continue to have some symptoms throughout their life, though those can be reduced with treatment.[xv] [xvi]

Can autism or ADHD be cured?

There is currently no known cure for either autism or ADHD. Instead, they are both considered lifelong diagnoses that generally appear in early childhood.

However, as just mentioned, the Drake Institute has seen some ADHD patients improve so significantly through treatment that they no longer meet criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. After treatment, other ADHD patients may still have some symptoms, but they’re typically noticeably reduced.

Autism is much more likely to persist through your adult life, but difficulties can be reduced with proper treatment.

How the Drake Institute Treats ADHD & Autism

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.


















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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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