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Emmanuel Abua and Putting the Pieces Together

Emmanuel’s journey with ADHD has been going on for a long time. It started when he was 5. A teacher raised concerns and despite his family’s expectations that he would outgrow it – they took him off stimulant medications because of this – Emmanuel struggled with focus and building his own structure throughout school. He excelled on tests and quizzes but homework was a different story and even though he was seen as capable, the transition to college proved challenging. But it is also when he was evaluated for ADHD, marking this frustrating period as a turning point in understanding himself. 

Almost a decade later, Emmanuel discovered he was also autistic and he struggled with this news going through bouts of depression and denial. His search for answers led him to the support he needed to accept his dual diagnosis. Through humility and growth, Emmanuel became an advocate for Autism and ADHD awareness, actively engaging with organizations like ADDA and addressing mental health stigmas within the African-American community.

Today, he pursues the work he’s passionate about as a freelance writer, speaker, and voiceover artist and has been contributing his talents in the form of short audio stories for NeuroClassic’s SoundCloud channel, sharing his unique perspective to help foster understanding.

Listen in to hear Emmanuel share more about his journey with ADHD and Autism, about the importance of connection for the neurodiverse community, and how the progress that’s been made in the neurodivergent community over the last decade is inspiring him to look forward to the future. 

Refocused, Together is a collection of 31 stories told throughout the 31 days of October, a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you don’t miss a single story this month! 

Connect with Emmanuel on LinkedIn, read his latest work here and listen to the work he’s created for NeuroClassic on SoundCloud

READ: Embrace Autism | Autistic & ADHD Traits

READ: CHADD | ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Emmanuel Abua (00:00):

I think a lot of my anguish could have been legitimately avoided if I had just accepted the fact that I had both at the same time, but I only focused that I was autistic. I completely just dropped any fact that I had ADHD. That’s one of the main key regrets of my life. At the end of the day, I needed to accept that I had both.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:29):

You are listening to Refocus Together, and this is episode twenty-seven. Emmanuel Abua and putting the pieces together.

(00:45):

Welcome back to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and we are in the final stretch of Refocused Together, the special series we created for ADHD Awareness Month to raise awareness of just how complex ADHD is and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives. When we share stories, we find the perspective, ideas and tips that help us live our best lives because while we may be different, we are all united by our own ADHD journeys. You just heard today’s guest, Emmanuel Abua. Growing up, Emmanuel didn’t know he had ADHD until a teacher raised the concern. When he was just five years old. His family assumed he would eventually outgrow it and made the decision to take him off stimulant medication. Throughout school, Emmanuel often found himself unable to focus. And while he struggled with turning in homework, he did well on tests and quizzes.

(01:53):

During the day, his mind would often wander, but even though he seemed distracted, he could still keep up with what was happening in class. He did well with structure and having someone there to catch him When he got in the weeds, Emmanuel went to Tuskegee University and the transition from high school to college was difficult. Combine that with caring more about what others thought than what he actually wanted to do with his life, and he felt lost, overwhelmed, and eventually decided college wasn’t for him. The one positive thing to come out of that time in his life was being officially evaluated for ADHD when he was 19. Nearly a decade later, Emmanuel learned that he was also autistic. He went through deep bouts of depression and denial following this diagnosis. He spent lots of time searching for answers and eventually found the right support that he needed to process his feelings so he could work on accepting his dual diagnosis of ADHD and autism.

(03:00):

The process took humility and growth. Emmanuel started to share his story and as he became interested in self-advocacy, things in his life began to shift. Today he’s a member of Ada, connects regularly with AUDHDers his age, AUDHDers the unofficial term for a person who has both autism and ADHD and is working to address the stigma that clings to ADHD in the African-American community. He’s also finally doing the kind of work that he’s always wanted as a freelancing writer, speaker and voiceover artist. Most recently creating an incredible collection of really relatable short-form audio stories for Neuroclassic’s Soundcloud channel. Let’s hear more from Emmanuel about his journey with ADHD and autism, about the importance of connecting with and genuinely understanding others and their journeys and how the progress that’s been made in the neurodivergent community over the last decade is inspiring him to look forward to the future.

(04:15):

What’s great about Refocused Together is we ask everyone the same questions and then we see where the conversation goes. So to get started, I would love to know when were you diagnosed with ADHD and what was that process like? And then if you remember, what kind of sparked some of those initial conversations that led you to seek out a diagnosis?

Emmanuel Abua (04:33):

I didn’t actually grow up knowing that I had ADHD, which is something that’s really cool that the current generation goes through. Like someone knows, a teacher will point it out, a parent will see something on TV and say, oh, their kid needs to be diagnosed. I did not grow up knowing, supposedly I had a teacher, either a teacher or a educational professional, thought I had ADHD when like five, six years old, and I was subsequently put on actual stimulant medication, and my parents didn’t like the way it worked out, so they took me off of it and assumed I would grow out of it. I didn’t get officially diagnosed until I was 19. I was in Tuskegee University at the time, and that transition from high school to college just I wasn’t handling it particularly well. The signs that I probably did have it was I needed to move constantly.

(05:32):

I needed to doodle constantly in order to pay attention. I blurted things out that didn’t need to be blurted out. My mind would wander, I would daydream, but for some reason I would be able to keep up exactly with what was happening in class. There were numerous teacher conferences in high school about me doodling all over my pages, not being able to pay attention. Messy room, messy desk, messy area, but great grades on tests and quizzes, bad with turning in homework, you name it, I had it. When I first found out, I immediately went on stimulant medication, but slowly had to learn pills don’t teach skills.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:15):

I’m curious on that transition from high school to college and then subsequently finding out you have ADHD. What were some of the biggest struggles for you in making that jump?

Emmanuel Abua (06:27):

When I was younger in high school, there was always some form of structure. If I was slipping or messing up on some level, oh, a teacher would catch it or my parents would catch it and they would know ahead of time. College that transition from college, if you don’t go to class, you don’t go to class. If you don’t turn in your homework, you don’t turn in your homework. The number of people and safety nets that you have, the accountability was gone. Once someone wasn’t hounding me for keeping your room clean or maintaining your schedule or making sure you did your laundry and paying your bills, just various things that I took for granted at the time, but definitely that transition was tough. And then the second thing was when I was going through high school, I cared more about what my parents thought than what I should actually do with my life.

(07:23):

So, now I’m going into college and realizing I don’t really want to do any of it. I want to do something else. So there’s two parts of me that basically says, oh, you should do this, but your parents who are paying the tuition and struggling to pay the tuition wants you to do something else. So that was tearing me apart as well. So definitely a lot of ADHD overwhelm. I always experienced it younger in high school, but there was always some form of accountability. There was someone somewhere that would’ve pointed out, oh, Emmanuel’s having trouble. We need to look into it. College, they were there, but there was definitely less of a hands-on, was more like, you’re accountable to yourself now, pull it together.

(08:13):

And I just legitimately couldn’t. At one point I think I switched my major four times in five months, so I was definitely lost, lost and depressed at the time. I had experienced a lot in high school, but I always had accountability. I had groups and organizations and I had my friends. I didn’t really have that anymore. Being inattentive primarily, I had a tendency to isolate, so I’m isolating. I’m sitting in overwhelm. Most of my structure and support is gone. There was no real support or any real help in that area, so definitely the change between the two was the most jarring aspect of it.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:00):

Well, you’re in good company in the fact that college was a complete disaster for me, it was such a struggle. And I had no idea that I had ADHD, and so I had no idea to even think to look into accommodations. And here you were, you had a diagnosis and yet no one was kind of looking at ways to support you or find ways within the school to help you. And it’s this strange idea that we’re 18 and we’re supposed to just help ourselves. We’ve just supposed to have it all figured out. What was college like for you then? What was the entire journey like?

(09:35):

I failed out twice. I don’t have a college degree. It’s something that took me a very, very long time to be okay saying, because there is such a stigma that comes from not having it. I was the generation that was told we could be whatever we wanted to be, as long as we went to a four-year school. And all signs pointed from high school that I should have been just fine in college and I was anything but. So I’m wondering if you can just share a little bit more about your journey.

Emmanuel Abua (10:02):

Once I got diagnosed, my family was, they knew, but they were really more of like, okay, what pills do you need to take in order for you to finish? So you add that on top of the cost of school because of course, Tuskegee University is a private institution. It cost a lot of money. And at the time when I was going there, there were numerous people, they weren’t making it past freshman, sophomore year. They were either transferring or dropping out because the tuition was so exorbitant. Classes were good actually. The ones I could do, I could do pretty well. The ones I could not do, I ended up trying to do over and over again. Looking back, it feels like I was trying to be something that I wasn’t because I originally went into college trying to be a chemical engineer, and I’m not particularly good at chemistry or math.

(11:01):

I could go through a history and an English class, probably get a B or an A, math chemistry, I’m doing them four, I’m doing those classes four or five different times, barely passing. The depression and the overwhelm and the burnout just kind of took its toll. I would say sophomore year I wanted to go to art school. I had decided that I wanted to go to art school. I had gotten a recommendation from one of the English teachers I had managed to impress with my writing and my work. I told my parents, I told one parent, I told my father actually, and my father just equated art school to basket weaving and nobody could get a job, so I erroneously did the wrong thing and I went back in and I tried to make it work on the pills. Switching majors, went from chemical engineering to architecture to computer science, back to chemical engineering.

(12:03):

I must’ve added and dropped classes right up until the cutoff date. So whole schedule was a mess. Meanwhile, I’m depressed. Most of the time I can’t even go to class because I’m just so overwhelmed. My room becomes a mess. My friends start worrying about me to an amazing degree. I drop 15, 20 pounds. I think the only good moments I had were with my actual friends when we sat in the dorm rooms and we would play video games or watch anime or go on trips together. I failed out three times and the first time was out at Tuskegee. I couldn’t make it work, so I stayed at home for a little while, tried to go to community college, tried to go to, well, I guess they call it Georgia State Community College at the time. Tried to do that, still did not embrace the concept of art school, by the way.

(13:05):

Just kept trying to do good math, science, so I tried doing computer science, kept failing math, so failed out again. Another couple of years passed, did some work, didn’t have anything to do with school. Went back one more time to Columbus State University, burned out completely trying to do I think information technology. I had to come back home with my tail between my legs, so that whole period, it was an eight year period of me trying to be something that I wasn’t, of me trying to listen to other people instead of listening to myself. And I think the lowest point of the whole college experience was I was officially evaluated because when I got originally evaluated for ADHD, it was just a checklist from a doctor and once I think I got five checks or something like that, they were like, okay, you have ADHD. We’re going to give you some pills. Everything will be okay. That’s essentially the energy that I got from my doctors and even my parents.

(14:17):

The official evaluation like eight years after that was that I was also autistic too. Didn’t realize that. That pretty much summed up what happened in the entirety of college because once I gotten diagnosed with both, because this was 10 years ago at the time, no one had really heard of combining like ADHD and being autistic at the same time. They thought it was a flu. They thought it was weird. They couldn’t disprove that I had both at the same time, so one more time, I tried to go back to Columbus State and I appealed to get back in because I had completely flunked out. I appealed on the grounds, said, oh, hey, I had a learning disability. I didn’t know what was happening. Can you give me a chance to come back? And I was summarily rejected. After that, I didn’t really try to go back to the school anymore.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:10):

I want to talk about your autism diagnosis, but before we get to that, I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about how you felt on the medication, because there was a lot of pressure coming from people all around you, the doctors, your family, that this was supposed to fix things. And you mentioned very early on that pills don’t teach skills, which is such an important reminder for everyone. It is a part of a treatment plan. It’s not the whole treatment plan.

Emmanuel Abua (15:39):

Right.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:40):

So what was using medication like for you?

Emmanuel Abua (15:42):

I started with stimulants first. It felt like having blurry eyesight and then all of a sudden being able to see clearly for the first time. So at first, that’s literally what it was like. If I wanted to pay attention to something and I wanted to focus on something, I could actually do it, but there was something else wasn’t working, like I could pay attention, I could focus, but I was still low grade depressed, low grade miserable. It might’ve had something to do with the fact that I was still trying to be what everybody else wanted me to be, and I believed that if I had the pills and I could have a laser-sharp focus, I could at least get through it. The stimulants just weren’t technically enough. So during that time period, I still went to therapists and I still went to doctors. I tried different forms of stimulants. I tried antidepressants for a little while. Maybe both would’ve worked together. I didn’t officially legitimately try that until later. It did help, but I was unhappy and the pills didn’t fix the fact that I was unhappy.

(16:53):

I focused a lot more and I was able to pay attention to what I was focusing on, but I wasn’t working on scheduling. I wasn’t working on socializing and maintaining hobbies and self-care and taking care of myself. It needs to be part of a comprehensive plan. It just kind of felt like there was a magnifying glass on everything, I loved that feeling. The only problem was was that it didn’t last.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:19):

I want to know what you initially thought when all those years after your first ADHD diagnosis at 19, you have another assessment, a much more thorough assessment, and they come back to you and they say you also have autism. What was that moment like for you?

Emmanuel Abua (17:38):

Outside, I felt like I was calmly holding it together. Inside, I’m internally screaming, and then when I get to the car, I scream in the car for five minutes. I was depressed for quite some time, and I think for a good two or three years after that, I erroneously made the decision, oh, I don’t have a problem. Those doctors, they’re evaluations and stuff like that, they’re completely wrong. All I have to do is just work through it and I won’t be autistic anymore. So I dropped the whole thing about ADHD, which by the way, they still stood by even though they couldn’t separate the two, knowing my background and my personal history, I focused entirely on the fact that I was autistic, nothing else, and I think that ended up hurting me more than helping me. Because looking back, they were legitimately trying to point out, you’re good at English, you’re good at history, you’re good at speaking to people. You like artwork. Why don’t you work on any of that?

(18:45):

They were legitimately trying to do, like secondary steps, they were legitimately trying to get me to a better place than I needed to be, and I’m grateful to Dr. Fox and Dr. Cohen for putting in that extra effort because it was a pediatric facility and I was already an adult, and they didn’t actually have to evaluate me. So I was still going to speak to them, trying to process it, trying to deal with it. I think a lot of my anguish could have been legitimately avoided if I had just accepted the fact that I had both at the same time. But I only focused that I was autistic. I completely just dropped any fact that I had ADHD. That’s one of the main key regrets of my life. At the end of the day, I needed to accept that I had both, that both were there and that I had to deal with both and work on myself. That was a process that took humility and that took growth. Having one was interesting enough, but knowing that I had both was just kind of felt like a one-two punch.

Lindsay Guentzel (19:58):

We know that ADHD is the most common coexisting condition for children with ASD, and there are a lot of shared symptoms, impulsivity, lack of focus, difficulty organizing tasks and projects, social challenges, sensory issues, emotional immaturity. You mentioned letting go of all of the things with ADHD and really focusing in on your autism. I’m hoping you could share some of the crossovers you have discovered in the time that you’ve spent learning about yourself following both of these diagnoses that you’ve got in adulthood.

Emmanuel Abua (20:33):

Looking back, I just feel like the ball was kind of dropped on me a little bit about the whole having ADHD, having autism. So after transferring therapists, another therapist put me in touch with this group that helped individuals with autism and other executive functioning issues. They helped move them forward, and that’s how I got into self-advocate work. I think self-advocacy helped a lot in me being able to speak on my story and me being able to explain exactly what happened, but it didn’t really carry into my ADHD. In fact, most of the time I didn’t even really talk about it or didn’t even really bring it up. I was being asked to speak. I had gotten jobs because of it. I had gotten writing gigs, speaking gigs because I was in so many programs and saying I was an autistic individual, self-advocate.

(21:40):

Once COVID hit and I couldn’t go anywhere, it was almost as if the ADHD kicked in in a big way. I just didn’t realize how much I was doing and how much it was hurting my health until I had to legitimately stop. That really was defining moment that I reached, okay, I need to officially acknowledge the fact that I have ADHD because I transition to that point. I had been working for a while and there were signs of burnout, but I was pushing through them. There were signs of executive functioning problems, but I was pushing through them. I had this issue of just trying to get it done and just ignoring my physical health. And COVID just eventually took a genuine pull on it. In reality, I’m grateful that it happened because even when I was advocating, even when I was speaking, even when people were impressed by what I said and how I spoke and how articulate I am, I just felt empty.

(22:55):

Like there was a piece of myself that was there, but I wasn’t really acknowledging. That whole path was merely just me trying to reach a point of acceptance because I think I went through the stages of grief in that timeframe, like depression and bargaining and acceptance. I think it was just a long road to get there. Had I been going to more support groups in regards to having both at the same time, I think I would’ve been able to figure it out faster than I did, but there was just a lot that was happening at the time. Alongside that, I just legitimately wasn’t acknowledging, physical health, family problems, money problems. It was just all, it just screamed of ADHD overwhelm essentially.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:49):

When you look at how ADHD affects your life right now, what stands out as some of the biggest challenges you have in day-to-day life?

Emmanuel Abua (23:58):

Just kind of acknowledging the fact that I didn’t really spend very much time on it. I think I’ve only got two years under my belt focusing entirely on ADHD and maybe seven or eight focusing on the fact that I was autistic. So the toughest thing is coming out as a self-advocate for ADHD and having the humility to realize that there’s so much I don’t know, and there’s a bunch of glaring weaknesses into me figuring out my ADHD. Honestly, realizing that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and the majority of the time it was just playing a game of catch up. But the organization that I joined, ADA did a lot to resolve my feelings of inadequacy about it. I impressed them just like I seem to impress everybody else, and I agree with what Dr. Hallowell said. The most important thing in ADHD or should have is vitamin C for connection, because being able to connect with other ADHDers who are in my age group around the world who are African-American, it did a lot, not only for my advocacy work, but my self-esteem.

(25:21):

For some reason, I just feel better around other ADHD people. Around autistic people. I felt around, I felt seen, but it wasn’t the same. Growing up I just always felt invisible and I was just kind of in the way, but amongst ADHDers, it feels like I actually have a voice and people have faith in me and believe in me, and I was able to warm them over and impress them just like I was able to do with the autistic community. At the end of the day, I have the humility to acknowledge that it’ll take a significant amount of work for me to place myself in the ADHD community like I did in the autistic community.

(26:17):

With my writing and my speaking and my connecting with other ADHD people, I just feel like the organization gave me so much. In fact, ADA was entirely the reason why I’m speaking to you today was because I met someone from ADA who was so impressed by me, she was like, oh, you should definitely speak to Lindsay. Lindsay would love to hear from you. At the time, I was having a huge self-esteem problem, and I just think being around ADHD helped me out a lot with that, so I’m grateful for everything add has done, but I’m humble enough to be honest about the fact that I still have a long way to go in regards to learning and connecting and genuinely understanding other ADHDers, but I’m grateful to be among them. It’s just such a great place to be.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:16):

When you look at life and everything that you have going on and all that you’ve accomplished despite everything that’s working against you, I’m wondering where you see yourself thriving.

Emmanuel Abua (27:26):

You said you had heard me speak. I wasn’t actually thinking about speaking at the time. I was just thinking about writing, just writing and pretty much doing nothing else beyond that. And just out of a lark, I did a radio play with some friends. We did a radio play of the Matrix, and I voiced Agent Smith and I really loved it. And I was like, well, maybe I should do more of that. I asked the organization that I wrote for, Neuroclastic, oh, hey, can I voice out some of the articles that I’m writing or that other people have written? That was where I wanted to legitimately thrive.

(28:08):

Just speaking and reaching out to folks and advocating, and 80% of the time I seem to warm people over either with what I say or how I say it, and I can’t figure out that I’m doing it until I’ve actually done it. I don’t know if that makes any legitimate sense. I guess where I see thriving at this point is doing something with my voice, doing artwork, trying to connect the two, expanding out my network in regards to ADHD. I know so many interesting ADHDers and I’ve gotten so many little cool ADHD stories, so I guess it would just be those three things. So ADHD, ADHD networking, artwork, and speaking/voice work.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:00):

When you look towards the future, what’s exciting for you? What’s something that’s kind of pushing you forward?

Emmanuel Abua (29:05):

What really excites me is just how much the neurodivergent community, ADHDers, autistics, et cetera, are just fed up with how the way the world works. They are fed up with how work works, with how work culture works, with how society works, with how they’re represented in the media. It doesn’t feel like it was 10 years ago. There was some theories put out there. There was some data and some stuff, but there wasn’t really any interest in that, and now everyone wants a seat at the table. Everyone’s fed up. And people want real change. I would like to be one of the voices that stands up and is able to convey that and be, not a champion, just more like a hope that the world can be a better place. I think that’s exciting that so many things that I live through, people are getting fed up with.

(30:05):

The way that the world works, people are getting fed up with. The same thing happening again and again with no change. People are fed up with. I like that people are getting mad about that, and then there’s more avenues to be able to express that frustration and that pain and that anger, and you don’t have to look very far to share what you’re going through and be able to have it represented or have somebody else to be able to convey it. There’s just such an exciting experience about me bringing up something that happened to me in regards to my ADHD and other ADHDers saying, oh, I did that. You did that? I did that. I thought nobody else did that. That just fills my heart with absolute joy to be able to connect on that level and it supersedes age and generations and locations. Just being able to connect on that level, I think there’s power there for us. It’s just great to see that.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:14):

What advice would you give to someone who is also facing both a later in life ADHD diagnosis along with an ASD diagnosis?

Emmanuel Abua (31:23):

Well, I would say first of all, find a solid support system, particularly amongst other peers, other people going through the same thing. I don’t think there’s a group yet that does that specifically yet, but very soon there’ll probably be a support group for people that cover AUDHD being autistic and having ADHD at the same time. A couple of books that helped me were Pink Goldfish and the Freak Factor. The Freak Factor is by Dave Rendell and Pink Goldfish is by Stan Phelps and Dave Rendell.

(32:02):

Hearing that your weaknesses can be your superpower did a lot to center me on what I could be doing more of with my life. Self-care, definitely. Eating right, sleeping right, going to the doctor, mental health if you can get it. Hobbies, having actual hobbies and being able to connect with people on a regular basis and just at the core of it, just try to take it one day at a time and know that just because you found that at an older age, doesn’t mean it’s over, and doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just one step on the path for you to be able to find out more of who you are. Because now they know, right. Now they know and that the internet is so vast and there’s so many resources and there’s so many people to talk to that share the same problems and have the same experiences, connection and self-care. That’s what I would say at the end of the day. Maintaining a strong support system and self-care emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:20):

I wrap by asking everyone the same question, which is when we look at the general population and what they know about ADHD, what is something that you wish that they understood better?

Emmanuel Abua (33:32):

I wish they understood that at the end of the day, it’s something that’s said in the autistic community. If you meet one person with ADHD, you meet one person with ADHD. Not every single ADHDer has the same experiences, has the same problems, has the same life experiences. At the core, there are similarities, but every individual is a separate individual. Our problems should not be generalized. I see a lot of generalizations that just do more that just hurt, oh, everybody can’t focus, oh, I lose my keys, or, oh, I lost focus, etc, etc. So I think that hurts more than helps. I just think we’re not properly represented in society yet. There’s a lot of people who come out and have ADHD, but there’s still a stigma about that, especially amongst the African-American community, for example. We’re still in its infancy, but we’re working there and I just think that just needs to be acknowledged that there have been strides and we have gotten to a specific place, but society as a whole has so much farther it needs to go.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:00):

Emmanuel, this was such a great conversation. I’m so glad we were able to connect. Thank you for all of the outreach and the awareness that you’re spreading, and I just am sending you all the best of luck, and I’m really excited to see what comes for you in these next few years. So thank you so much for being here with us.

Emmanuel Abua (35:20):

Thank you for having me, Lindsay. I appreciate it so much.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:30):

I have to say, these interviews, they are really such a gift for me. I really hope you guys love them as well, but selfishly, I get so much out of them. The optimism Emmanuel has about his future, even after all he’s been through after all that was missed, I wish I could bottle that up and have it alongside my morning coffee, like an extra shot of espresso, but for my heart. We without a doubt need to have a much bigger, more in-depth conversation about ADHD and autism and how the two disorders can mix, mingle, and as we heard from Emmanuel’s story cause a lot of confusion when trying to figure out what’s what. I’m so grateful to Emmanuel for sharing his story and helping us dip our toes in the water of these dual diagnoses. It’s an incredibly important conversation that deserves its due diligence and we’ll be working on that in 2024.

(36:33):

There’s a great piece on Embrace Autism that looks at autistic and ADHD traits. Embrace Autism is a website committed to providing research and experience-based information on autism with an emphasis on adult autism. And this article in particular was written by Dr. Deborah Berkowitz, a behavioral neuroscience researcher and professor who was also diagnosed with autism when she was twenty-eight. We’ll share the link to the piece in our show notes, but here’s the gist to get you started. Research indicates that over 50% of people with autism also have ADHD and most fall into the inattentive type category. The diagnostic criteria for each condition are very different. An autism diagnosis looks at social and communication differences and repetitive patterns of behavior. While an ADHD diagnosis looks at attentional differences. According to the DSM-5, there’s no overlap between the two at all, and until recently, a person could not be diagnosed with both. So you know what that means.

(37:46):

There are probably more than a few people out there who are misdiagnosed, which begs the very important question, when are we getting the DSM-6? It’s also important to mention that this criteria focuses on external and observable traits, not what’s happening inside ourselves. That last part is what lends to the confusion. So many unique minds with their own experiences, that’s impossible to study. When we understand what autism and ADHD look like when they overlap, that’s when people can get the resources they need. Here are some of the challenges that both ADHDers and people with autism share. One, impulsivity. Two, lack of focus. Three, problems with organizing tasks. Four, difficulties in social interaction and making friends. Five, learning differences and disabilities. Six, sensory challenges. And seven, emotional immaturity. Now, it’s important to remember these challenges can have very different causes. For an ADHDer, social challenges might be from impulsive behaviors or not being able to fit in with the group.

(39:10):

For someone with autism, social challenges could be from sensory challenges that might prevent them from being around a group or a speech delay. I’m so grateful to Emmanuel for sharing his story here with us on Refocused Together. One of the things I love so much about this podcast is I get to learn as much as you guys do and like I already mentioned, we’ll definitely be diving into this topic next year.

(39:37):

I can’t believe we only have a handful of episodes left before we bring Refocused Together 2023 to a very triumphant close. This year’s series for so many reasons has been so special and it means so much to me and my entire team that these episodes mean so much to you. To every single one of you who has reached out to share kind words, to those of you who have shared your favorite episodes on social media, who’ve sent episodes to family and friends, thank you. Your support of our work is truly appreciated. We are down to counting on one hand now a place I didn’t know if we would ever be, and my goodness, does it feel good. We’ll be back tomorrow with another brand new episode of Refocused Together, and in the meantime, please be a little kinder to yourself.

(40:35):

Support for Refocus comes from our partner, ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans. To learn how they can help you on your journey, head to adhdonline.com and remember to use the promo code refocusedtwenty to receive $20 off your ADHD online assessment right now.

(41:07):

The biggest thanks go out to our team at ADHD Online. Keith Boswell, Susanne Pruitt, Melanie Mile, Claudia Gotti and Trisha Merchandani for their constant support in helping make Refocused Together happen.

(41:24):

These thirty-one episodes were produced thanks to our managing editor Sarah Platanitis, our production coordinator, Phil Rodemann, social media specialist and editor Al Chaplin and me, the host and executive producer of Refocused, Lindsay Guentzel. To connect with the show on social media, you can find us online at refocued pod and you can email the show directly, [email protected]. That’s [email protected]. Thank you for watching.

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