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Month: August 2023

AuDHD: The Combined Forces of ADHD and Autism

“Hi, I’ll have the Super Spicy Combo please”

ADHD and Autism are both neurodevelopmental conditions, and they have plenty in common. They also have some pretty drastic differences. So, what happens when the two team up together in one person’s mind? The emerging term AuDHD refers to that exact situation.

Is it common to have both?

In a word, yes. The exact details for how common, though, are a little fuzzy. Depending on the source, you’ll find a wide variety of statistics. According to, “More than half of all individuals who have been diagnosed with ASD also have signs of ADHD.” Having one condition doesn’t mean that you’ll certainly have the other. But, if you have been diagnosed with one and you feel like you have signs of the other, it’s worth exploring.

Overlapping Symptoms and Experiences

To complicate the topic, autism and ADHD share quite a few symptoms in common – even when presenting individually.

  • Attention Difficulties: Both people with ADHD and with autism might have trouble sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Hyperactivity: This is more commonly associated with ADHD but can also be seen in some people with autism. It can manifest as fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness.
  • Impulsivity: Both conditions might cause someone to act without thinking first, particularly children. This can result in interruptions, hasty decisions, or difficulty waiting one’s turn.
  • Social Misunderstandings: Individuals with ADHD might interrupt frequently, miss social cues, or have trouble listening to others, while individuals with autism might struggle with understanding social norms or reading social cues.
  • Difficulty with Transitions: Transitioning from one task or activity to another can be overwhelming for people with either condition.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Some people with autism are especially sensitive to sensory stimuli such as lights, sounds, or textures. However, there’s growing recognition that sensory issues can also affect people with ADHD, though it might manifest differently.
  • Executive Function Challenges: Both ADHD and autism can be accompanied by difficulties with executive functions like organizing, planning, and prioritizing tasks.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: While repetitive or “stimming” behaviors like hand-flapping or rocking are more commonly associated with autism, individuals with ADHD can also have repetitive actions or habits.
  • Focus on Specific Interests: Just as a person with autism might become deeply interested and focused on a specific subject, someone with ADHD might also hyperfocus on an activity or topic of interest, though the context and duration might be different.

All these overlapping experiences can make the two conditions difficult to untangle from each other to begin with. The combined presentation, then, of ADHD and autism can lead to heightened or more intense symptoms. According to, “People who have traits that stretch across both autism and ADHD diagnoses often face more serious challenges than people with either diagnosis alone: They can have greater impairments in adaptive functioning, a term that refers to self-care and daily living skills, and more severe social and cognitive issues.”

On the Go, But Where To? A Look at Executive Functioning

Executive functions serve as our cognitive command center. For those with AuDHD, tasks like organizing, planning, and maintaining attention can be a rollercoaster ride. Executive functioning skills can be learned. For those of us with neurodevelopmental disorders, though, it takes more intention to learn them. Executive functioning is such a challenge for us neurospicies, that we’ve started coming up with more fun terms for our challenges (enter ADHD paralysis). PDA, or pathological demand avoidance, is typically associated with autism and can complicate these struggles even further.

Parents of kids with AuDHD might see them struggle to get started with chores or homework. Or, kids might struggle to turn a big project like “clean your room” into the individual tasks it takes to complete them (“put dirty clothes in the hamper” and “put your toys away”).

In fact, it seems like I’m only able to get into a groove with writing this article when I’m about to leave to go somewhere else. There’s a funny irony to my own executive functioning challenges that I’m experiencing, while writing about executive functioning. The impulsivity from ADHD combined with a need for routine from autism can create an interesting dance of cognitive strengths and challenges.

Feeling the World Intensely: The Dance of Sensory Sensitivities

Imagine hearing background noises with the same intensity as the primary conversation, or feeling the textures of everyday materials as if they were magnified. Sensory experiences are amplified for many with AuDHD, leading to unique interactions with their environment.

These experiences can be difficult to identify, because they are so subjective. Everyone has a little bit of sensory sensitivity here or there. The phrase “nails on a chalkboard” has become an idiom because we can all relate to how much that sound feels like torture. But, for ADHDer, autistics, and AuDHDers, sensory triggers can be hiding everywhere. Someone with these conditions might have very specific preferences about the fabric of their clothes, the hue of their light bulbs, the texture of their foods, and the volume or type of background noise they can tolerate while they work.

Loop earplugs can help with the auditory sensory issues, and there are other products and strategies that help AuDHDers to live more comfortably.

Navigating the Social Labyrinth

Navigating the social realm with AuDHD is akin to traversing a maze with shifting walls. The impulsive nature of ADHD might lead to speaking out of turn, while the autism aspect could cause challenges in reading social cues.

On top of all of this, neurodivergent people in general tend to receive a significant amount of negative social feedback during their formative years. Rejection sensitive dysphoria is a common experience among people with ADHD and autism, too. Together, these factors can create a perfect storm of social anxiety. It’s important to know that anxiety is a very normal response.

It’s a spectrum of social experiences that requires patience, understanding, and often, guidance.

Harnessing the Power Within: Amplifying AuDHD Strengths

While AuDHD can present some challenges, those living with it often exhibit incredible strengths, such as intense focus, passion, and out-of-the-box thinking. Having someone with AuDHD on your team can lead to more effective problem-solving, more creative work, and honestly, in our opinion, a way less boring meeting. People with autism, ADHD, and AuDHD drive innovation in this world, and their gifts should be treasured!

AuDHD is more than just a convergence of ADHD and autism. It’s a unique experience that requires understanding, support, and tailored approaches. Select resources and strategies that align with your journey. Remember, with the right knowledge and tools, every challenge can be transformed into an opportunity for growth!

adhd, adults, autism

“I Had 9 Things to Do So Instead I Took a Nap” – A Story of ADHD Paralysis

It’s NOT laziness! Delving into the mind maze that is ADHD Paralysis.

Sometimes, those of us with ADHD get stuck. We end up horizontal on the couch, wanting to do the next thing on our mental “to do” list, but somehow unable to make ourselves get up even though we really do want to do the thing that has us feeling frozen! This is an important distinction between ADHD paralysis and old fashioned laziness: if you’re lazy, you don’t want to do The Thing. In the “stuck” headspace, we might even feel shame that we can’t make ourselves do it. The antidote to shame is acceptance, and we hope that by understanding ADHD paralysis, you can start to love and accept yourself (and maybe even finally get the laundry done.).

A Short List of Things You Might Relate To

When I say “ADHD paralysis”, you might already have an exact picture of what it feels like in your head. If so, go ahead and skip to the next section. If you’re still left, you might be experiencing it if you…

  • Have a long list of things to do, but you can’t seem to pick which one to start with
  • Experience time blindedness (struggling to gauge how much time has passed)
  • Know exactly what you “should” be doing, but can’t seem to force yourself to do it
  • Overthink and overanalyze, even to the point of being unable to make decisions
  • Experience a lack of clarity or brain fog

Self-Care Tips for When You’re Stuck in the Paralysis Pit

Now you have a name for the phenomenon going on in your brain. Let me guess what you’re thinking.. “Great, random internet blogger, what the heck do I do about it?” Great segue, random internet reader.

The first step toward self-acceptance is self-compassion and self-care. When you recognize that you can’t make yourself do The Thing, or if you can’t even make it do anything, then stop trying to fight it. You’re not going to work on that project right now anyway, so you can spend an hour beating yourself up about it or you can spend an hour taking care of yourself – the hour will pass either way. And I’d bet that after an hour of meeting your needs, you’ll be in a better position to do The Thing.

Self care isn’t just chocolate cake and bubble baths. It’s not NOT that, but there’s more! A few self care options that have helped me and the people in my life are listed below. If you have any that you can share too, please leave a comment!

  1. Embrace the Pause: Remove yourself from the environment in which you need to do The Thing. If you’re working from home on a laptop, this might even look like getting up from your desk and moving to the couch. Or, maybe it’s a walk outside. You might go try out a new coffee shop in town. Whatever you decide to do, if you remove the looming pressure of obligation and give yourself permission to take a break, you’re on the right track.
  2. Take a Nap: Let’s all appreciate that I remembered to mention the nap from the article title. Especially if you’re feeling tired or mentally exhausted, a nap might be just what your brain needs to recover from the last dozen things you did.
  3. Physical Activity: It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, a walk around the block or 20 pushups can help to get your blood flowing.
  4. Embrace Your Inner Plant: Get some sun and make sure to hydrate! Humans need natural sunlight, and so many of us don’t get enough in a day. One of my absolute favorite activities is laying on a rock in the sun. I call it “lizarding”.

Tactics for When You Can’t Put Off Doing The Thing Any Longer

Body Doubling

Body doubling is the strategy of having a friend present with you while you do your work. The friend doesn’t need to help you do it, they just hang out so you have company! They might even nudge you back toward accountability if you get off task.

Timers Galore

Setting a timer is one of the tactics that shows up in our Cleaning Tips for ADHD article, but it doesn’t just apply to housework. You might be aiming to finish your homework or a blog for you business (lol). Set a timer to just work on it for 15 or 20 minutes, and see how far you can get in that time! This is when the hyperfocus super power of your ADHD might just save you. You might be able to knock out an hour’s worth of work in 20 minutes if you can engage that hyperfocus muscle.

Time Blocking

Time blocking can allow you to focus more effectively on each task. Instead of making a to-do list for your day, you schedule short bursts of effort on individual tasks. Each thing might only take 5 minutes, but time blocks allow you flexibility regarding when you do it and still get it done. For example, you might make your day look like this:

  • 9-9:30 I WILL accomplish Thing #1
  • 9:30-10:30 I’ll take a break and eat something because Thing #1 was exhausting
  • 10:30-11:30 I’ll do Thing #2

Never forget that the goal is acceptance, and this is an absolutely shame-free zone. Keep reading our other content to learn more about your brain!

adhd, ADHD and Cleaning

Autism and Sleep: 12 Tips for a Restful Night

In the world of autism and sleep, there’s a rhythm – a sometimes elusive rhythm. Whether you’re rocking the spectrum or you’re guiding an autistic superstar (maybe your kiddo), there’s a dance between sleep and autism that’s intriguing to understand and essential to master. Together, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of dreams and the spectrum.

Sleep and Autism: More than Meets the Eye

Autism is a spectrum, and so are the sleep challenges that come with it. Many autistic people find themselves either too sleepy or, more commonly, dealing with insomnia. Some also experience poor sleep quality when they do get to rest. Neurological differences, anxiety, sensory sensitivities, or even gastrointestinal issues linked with autism can impact sleep. It’s not just about being a “night owl”; there’s a whole behind-the-scenes play going on.

A question that often pops up is whether the severity of autism has a direct link with sleep disturbances. These challenges might manifest themselves in general insomnia While it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, research indicates that those with more severe symptoms might experience greater sleep challenges. However, individual experiences can differ based on a cocktail of factors – environment, co-existing health conditions, daily routines, and more.

Tips for the Little Spicies: Helping Autistic Kids Sleep Better

  1. Routine Rules All: Kids thrive on routine, and for autistic children, a predictable bedtime can make all the difference. This includes consistent sleep and wake times and a series of calming pre-bed activities.
  2. Sensory Paradise: Everyone loves a comfy bed, but for kids on the spectrum, sensory considerations are crucial. Soft sheets, room-darkening curtains, or even a special stuffed toy can help. Make the bedroom a haven, not a sensory minefield.
  3. Limit the Excitables: Beware of those sneaky stimulants! Limiting screen time an hour before bed and watching out for sneaky caffeine in chocolates or some meds can be game-changers.
  4. Try out a Sensory Sleep Sack: This comforting sleep pod provides the the pressure of a weighted blanket but without the night sweats that can come with it. The breathable fabric helps kids sleep and stay cool at the same time.

Advice for the Grown-Ups: Catching Those Zzz’s

Autistic adults, we see you! Sleep challenges don’t magically disappear after the teenage years (if only!).

  1. Chill Mode Activated: From guided meditation apps to a simple breathing exercise, finding a way to calm that buzzing brain can make bedtime less of a battleground.
  2. Environment Matters: Think cool, dark, and quiet. Sometimes, it’s the basics that get overlooked. A comfy mattress, blackout curtains, or a fan for white noise can be simple yet effective solutions.
  3. Screen-Awareness: The blue light in your phone’s screen can trick your brain into thinking that it’s the middle of the day. As tempting as it can be to scroll until sleep takes hold, you may have more success setting your phone on your nightstand.
  4. Move Every Day: A regular routine of physical activity can help your body feel more tired when it’s time to feel tired. Some people have a hard time heading straight to bed after exercise, so even working out in the morning can be a great help.
  5. Gadgets to the Rescue: Ever tried a weighted blanket? For some, it’s like a warm, reassuring hug. For others, a white noise machine muffling external sounds is the ticket to dreamland.

Parents in the Mix: How to Support Your Autistic Child’s Sleep

When a child has trouble sleeping, the effects can wear on the whole family. Keep trying different ideas to see what works for your child, and eventually something is bound to work.

  1. Routine and Flexibility: Sounds contradictory, right? While maintaining a bedtime routine is golden, sometimes being flexible based on the day’s events can be beneficial. Maybe after a particularly sensory-overloading day, bedtime needs to be a bit earlier.
  2. Seek the Experts: If sleep remains elusive, it might be time to tap into professional resources. Sleep therapists, occupational therapists, or even certain apps can provide strategies tailored to your child.
  3. Parental Self-Care: While supporting your child’s sleep, don’t forget about yours! Ensure you’re getting rest, seeking support when needed, and perhaps even trying some of those relaxation techniques you’ve learned for your child.

Goodnight and Good Luck!

Swaying to the rhythm of autism and sleep is a dance of patience, understanding, and trial-and-error. But as with any dance, once you get the steps down, the motion becomes more fluid and graceful. Whether you’re on the spectrum or guiding someone who is, remember: every challenge has its solutions, every problem its steps.

Select your sleep strategy, find your groove, and glide into better sleep tonight. Sweet dreams!

adults, autism, autism parenting tips, children, parenting tips, sleep

What does undiagnosed autism in adults look like?

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Have you ever felt like everyone else has a handbook for social situations, but you never got your copy? Do you have very strong preferences about fabrics or foods? Do you wonder if it’s autism, or if you’re just introverted, sensitive, and quirky?


Look, I’m not a doctor. I’m just another former gifted kid who wears Loop earplugs to sporting events and has to constantly remember to write niceties in her emails. As of this moment, I don’t have the resources to get the whole formal evaluation to find out “for sure” if I’ve got a touch of the ‘tism. But, I’ve done lots of Googling (shoutout to the websites that point to all my Googling as a sign of autism) and I thought I would share some of the things I’ve found.

Understanding the Spectrum

Everyone with autism has different support needs. Doctors often describe autism profiles with three levels, most prominently characterized by those support needs:

  1. Level 1 is often considered mild, and those within this category may learn to mask their symptoms and needs at an early age. This masking may lead them to fall through the cracks, with their autism going unnoticed.
  2. Level 2 represents a moderate need for support, and people in this group might find it harder to communicate in a way that’s understood and accepted by neurotypicals.
  3. Level 3 indicates substantial support needs. People in this category might be nonverbal at times, and are unable to mask.

Some people grew up only understanding autism to describe people who need substantial amounts of support to meet their basic needs. If you have level 1 ASD but the picture of “autism” in your head looks like level 3, then it would make sense that you’d be confused about your experience.

Signs of Undiagnosed Autism in Adults

Since our perception of the world is based on our own experience, it’s easy to assume that everyone thinks, feels, and acts the way we think, feel, and act. And if everyone does it, then it can’t be an autism thing, right?

Your keen pattern recognition skills have probably picked up where I’m going with this, but I’ll go there anyway. First, no. Not everyone thinks, feels, and acts the way you do – that would be statistically improbable anyway. I have a formula in my head for social interactions with strangers, and when I found out that most people just say the things that come into their heads, and it goes well for them? Mind. Blown. Moral of the story: keep an open mind to hearing about how your experiences differ from others.


Verbal Communication

Autistic verbal communication is effective and tends to be direct. Sometimes, it can be so direct that it intimidates neurotypicals, but it’s not on purpose! Both autistic and allistic communication tendencies have their strengths. We can run into issues when both sides don’t keep an open mind about the others’ perspective, but the differences in general communication style are just that: differences.

Let’s revisit the idea of direct verbal communication. If they need or want something, they’re more likely to ask for it directly, and expect others to do the same. On the flip side, allistics put more emphasis on niceties and small talk, and might indirectly mention their needs or wants. For example, a neurotypical might invite a group of people to a party by saying this:

“I’m they are having a party Friday night. It’s a potluck, and we still need drinks!”

The autistic person receiving that message might think to themselves, “huh, drinks are pretty important. I sure hope they invite someone that brings drinks!” and not realize that they themselves had been invited.

Sign #1 of undiagnosed autism: taking things literally. Bonus points if you have thought to yourself, “I don’t have the ‘taking things literally’ sign of autism because I don’t do [very specific thing].”

Sign #2 of undiagnosed autism: finding it easier to communicate with other neurdivergent people, especially if communicating with neurotypicals gets confusing.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication includes body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, inflection, and other things that aren’t the words coming out of your mouth. Neurotypical people tend to put much greater importance on these nonverbal signals than autistic people do. This applies to both the sending and receiving of messages. Again, neither group is better or worse than the other! The differences in communication, though, can lead to confusion and frustration.

Sign #3: practicing your “yes, I am listening and interested” face.

Sensory Stuff

People with autism become overstimulated from sensory input more quickly and more intensely than their allistic peers. These manifest in different ways for everyone, and different people are sensitive to different sensory triggers. I’ll list a few examples below, but this list is definitely not comprehensive.

  • Hearing electricity in your home, but struggling to understand conversation in restaurants 
  • Using Loop earplugs (or another cool type of earplug) in loud settings 
  • Placing a high priority on clothing fabric, and not being able to stand certain materials. 
  • If you find a texture that feels good on your fingertips, you could play with that object for hours.

Sign #4: having very strong opinions about socks.

Sign #5: if I asked you about food textures that you can’t stand, you would have a list of things that you hate.

Sign #6: your noise-canceling headphones are an absolute lifesaver.


Online Quizzes

Courtesy of Embrace Autism, a phenomenal resource that I love to cite, I’ve linked some common self-assessment questionnaires below. I’ve had doctors recommend these to me, so here I am, recommending them to you.

Autism Spectrum Quotient

The Doctor Decision

If you find that you relate to much of this article (plus the other 7 you read in the past week about this topic) you might be weighing your options about a formal diagnosis. Pursuing a formal autism diagnosis is a personal decision and has its pros and cons. On one hand, receiving a diagnosis might help you gain access to tailored therapy and/or the accommodations that will help you be successful in school and at work. On the other, the process can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly. Regardless of your decision, you are valid and we are accepting of self-diagnosis here.

Your Journey is Just Beginning

If it feels like there are pieces of your life that are starting to make more sense, I encourage you to keep exploring other autism content! You could start with our piece on pathological demand avoidance (PDA) and autism. The more you understand yourself, the better you can meet your needs.

adults, autism, sensory stuff

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