Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are two of the most represented neurodevelopmental conditions in childhood. The diagnostic shift introduced by the DSM-5, allowing a combined diagnosis of ADHD and ASD, poses different clinical challenges related to diagnostic overshadowing, accuracy of clinical judgment and potential delay in an ASD diagnosis in children presenting with ADHD. Here we tried to disentangle the clinical phenotype and specificity of the two co-occurring conditions in relation to autism traits and empathy, by comparing children with ASD with and without comorbid ADHD with children presenting ADHD only and children with typical development. The child versions of the Autism Quotient (C-AQ) and Empathy Quotient (C-EQ) were administered to a total sample of 198 male children between 6 and 14 years old with age appropriate language skills and normal intelligence. Univariate analysis demonstrated no significant differences in the C-AQ total and subscale scores as well as the C-EQ between children with ASD and children with ASD + ADHD, while children with ADHD alone presented an intermediate phenotype between ASD and TD. Furthermore, a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was applied to discriminate among the different phenotypes. We found that the C-AQ and C-EQ were accurate at distinguishing with satisfactory reliability between: (a) ASD vs. non- ASD (N-ASD) groups comprising both ADHD and TD children (Area Under the Curve AUC 88% for C-AQ and 81% for C-EQ); (b) ASD and TD (AUC 92% for C-AQ and 95% for C-EQ); (c) ASD and ADHD (AUC 80% for C-AQ and 68% for C-EQ). Our data confirm the reliability of the C-AQ and C-EQ as behavioral markers to differentiate ASD (regardless of comorbid ADHD) from an ADHD condition and TD. Interestingly, in our sample an ADHD condition does not increase the severity of the clinical phenotype in terms of autism traits distribution and empathy, suggesting that the psychological measures detected by the two quantitative instruments are independent of ADHD traits. This evidence will contribute to the translational efforts in developing better tailored treatments and preventive strategies.

Autistic Traits and Empathy in Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Co-occurring Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Autism Spectrum Disorder

Cerasa A.;Leonardi E.;Carrozza C.;Campisi A.;Siracusano R.;Germano E.;Pioggia G.;Gagliano A.;
2021

Abstract

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are two of the most represented neurodevelopmental conditions in childhood. The diagnostic shift introduced by the DSM-5, allowing a combined diagnosis of ADHD and ASD, poses different clinical challenges related to diagnostic overshadowing, accuracy of clinical judgment and potential delay in an ASD diagnosis in children presenting with ADHD. Here we tried to disentangle the clinical phenotype and specificity of the two co-occurring conditions in relation to autism traits and empathy, by comparing children with ASD with and without comorbid ADHD with children presenting ADHD only and children with typical development. The child versions of the Autism Quotient (C-AQ) and Empathy Quotient (C-EQ) were administered to a total sample of 198 male children between 6 and 14 years old with age appropriate language skills and normal intelligence. Univariate analysis demonstrated no significant differences in the C-AQ total and subscale scores as well as the C-EQ between children with ASD and children with ASD + ADHD, while children with ADHD alone presented an intermediate phenotype between ASD and TD. Furthermore, a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was applied to discriminate among the different phenotypes. We found that the C-AQ and C-EQ were accurate at distinguishing with satisfactory reliability between: (a) ASD vs. non- ASD (N-ASD) groups comprising both ADHD and TD children (Area Under the Curve AUC 88% for C-AQ and 81% for C-EQ); (b) ASD and TD (AUC 92% for C-AQ and 95% for C-EQ); (c) ASD and ADHD (AUC 80% for C-AQ and 68% for C-EQ). Our data confirm the reliability of the C-AQ and C-EQ as behavioral markers to differentiate ASD (regardless of comorbid ADHD) from an ADHD condition and TD. Interestingly, in our sample an ADHD condition does not increase the severity of the clinical phenotype in terms of autism traits distribution and empathy, suggesting that the psychological measures detected by the two quantitative instruments are independent of ADHD traits. This evidence will contribute to the translational efforts in developing better tailored treatments and preventive strategies.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11570/3217922
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