Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Symptoms Worsen Quality of Life for Individuals with Autism

Research Supported by the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network Presented at the Society for Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics Annual Meeting
NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 18, 2011) – Research supported by the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN), demonstrating that symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity worsen quality of life for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), was presented today at the Society for Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Researchers Parul Vora, M.D., developmental-behavioral pediatric fellowat Nationwide Children's and Darryn Sikora, Ph.D., Director of the Autism Program at Oregon Health Sciences University, used data exclusively from the ATN Registry to examine whether the presence of symptoms of attentiondeficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might have additional impact on the adaptive functioning and quality of life of children and adolescents with ASD. After reviewing measures of attention and hyperactivity, and measures of quality of life, for over 2,000 children and adolescents with ASD, they found that over half of this group had symptoms of either attention or hyperactivity problems. More than a third had significant symptoms of both.

Children with ASD frequently have other symptoms that may compound difficulties with communication, socialization and restricted interests. More than one in three children evaluated had symptoms suggesting that they might have ADHD. Approximately one in ten of the children studied were receiving stimulant medications typically used to treat ADHD. This suggests that most of these children and adolescents with ASD and ADHD symptoms are not being treated with medications for these inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Children with ASD frequently have other symptoms that may compound difficulties with communication, socialization and restricted interests. More than one in three children evaluated had symptoms suggesting that they might have ADHD. Approximately one in ten of the children studied were receiving stimulant medications typically used to treat ADHD. This suggests that most of these children and adolescents with ASD and ADHD symptoms are not being treated with medications for these inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Children with ASD have lower adaptive functioning – the ability to get along in daily situations – than typically developing children. Not only does the presence of ADHD symptoms compromise their adaptive abilities, quality of life is further reduced.

“Identification of ADHD symptoms in children with ASD is important so that health care providers can work to treat these issues. Further research is needed to determine whether stimulant medication improves ADHD symptoms in children with ASD,” explained ATN Medical Director Daniel Coury, M.D.

Dr. Coury explained why this research is important to the ATN. “Because it’s very common for children with ASD to present other medical symptoms and diagnoses, a primary goal of the ATN is to create a model of comprehensive medical care for children and adolescents with autism, and best practices to be shared with medical practitioners throughout North America and around the world.”

For those families considering medication to address their child’s ADHD symptoms, the ATN offers the Medication Decision Aid Tool Kit to help families create an appropriate treatment plan in collaboration with their child’s doctor or medical practitioner. The Medication Decision Aid Tool Kit is free of charge and available to download from the ATN's Tools You Can Use page.

About Autism
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, and one in 70 boys. The prevalence of autism has increased 600 percent in the past two decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network
The Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network (ATN) is the nation's first network of hospitals and physicians dedicated to developing a model of comprehensive medical care for children and adolescents with autism. The ATN, currently a network of 17 sites in North America, offers families care from doctors highly experienced in helping individuals with autism and providing treatment for associated conditions such as gastrointestinal and sleep disorders. ATN doctors are dedicated to finding better ways to manage the health of children with autism and sharing their increasing knowledge across the wider medical community. The ATN provides direct patient care through comprehensive, coordinated care model at its network of collaborative clinical teams providing ongoing care to children and families, whose clinicians are experienced in treating autism and associated disorders. The ATN works to develop and share best practices to improvecare, developing standards and guidelines for evaluating and treating physical conditions associated with autism, and to sharing these standards with a wide variety of other clinical programs, utilizing its common protocol for a multidisciplinary and comprehensive evaluation of children with autism. Some of these best practices are integrated into tool kits modeled after the highly successful Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit. These free resources include practical guidance to parents and practitioners on making blood draws and medical procedures less stressful and a Medication Decision Aid,  and can be found on the ATN's Tools You Can Use page. In addition, the ATN maintains a patient registry, a database of anonymous clinical data about participating families and patients that can be used to evaluate and track patient care in network facilities. ATN clinicians also conduct clinical research projects directly aimed at improving children's health and healthcare, serving as the Autism Intervention Network for Physical Health (AIR-P) for the Health Services and Resources Administration's (HRSA) Combating Autism Act Initiatives.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light It Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks’ award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $286 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 27 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 12 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, LLC, EMI Group Global Ltd and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School – they delivered respective commencement addresses at the first two of these schools. The Wrights are the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor in St. John’s history.