According to studies conducted over the past 10 years, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often has co-occurring issues along with it: ADHD or learning differences. Around 30 to 50 percent of those with ASD also show symptoms of ADHD. This points to an increased need for dual diagnosis treatment than we currently offer to students with ASD and ADHD.

What does dual diagnosis mean in terms of neurodevelopmental disorders?

Most often, when someone mentions “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders,” they’re referring to the occurrence of a mental illness and a substance abuse issue–but dual diagnosis shouldn’t be limited to just this definition. It can also be known as simply two disorders occurring at the same time, including neurodevelopmental disorders.
Dual diagnosis, when referring to neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD, ASD, learning differences, etc.), could mean your child is struggling with ASD and ADHD. Individuals with ASD can also experience challenges with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. This is why dual diagnosis treatment exists for neurodevelopmental disorders.

How is dual diagnosis treatment different from typical treatment?

If an individual is struggling with more than one issue, but is only being treated for the most recognized one, chances are typical treatment isn’t going to work very well. To fully and most effectively treat someone, all of their struggles must be assessed, taken into account, and treated. This is where dual diagnosis treatment comes in. It evaluates both issues that your child is dealing with, even if one is more severe than the other. For example, let’s say your son or daughter has ASD and significantly has challenges because of it, but also has mild ADHD symptoms–both need attention and treatment to make a true difference, not just one.

Why is this important?

Currently, many co-occurring issues go untreated. In a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, researchers found that being diagnosed with ASD often resulted in symptoms of ADHD getting ignored. According to the study, “The DSM-IV had specified that an ASD diagnosis is an exclusion criterion for ADHD, thereby limiting research of this common clinical co-occurrence.”
This significantly hinders not just research on the subject, but it hinders more effective and efficient dual diagnosis treatment for these types of issues. Making the public more aware of the prevalence of co-occurring disorders and the options available to help with them is important for future research and treatments.

Other issues individuals with ASD can face

Individuals with ASD aren’t immune from mental health issues–they can be harder to identify, though. This makes it imperative to know the issues that people with ASD most often face.
The most common issues that co-occur in individuals with ASD:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Somatic, Sleep, and Feeding Disorders
  • Stressor and Adjustment Disorders

If you believe your son or daughter could possibly benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, it’s essential to seek out a professional for further guidance on how to best help your child.

Seven Stars can help your family

Seven Stars combines residential treatment with adventure therapy to create a multifaceted, more effective program for 13 to 18 year old teens struggling with emotional and behavioral issues as a result of their neurodevelopmental disorder.

We embed the objectives we have for each student into daily activities and teach emotional wellness skills such as conflict resolution, problem solving, social awareness, academic skills, self-efficacy and prosocial behaviors. At Seven Stars, we strive to help each of our students develop the skills necessary to live full, productive lives.
For more information about dual diagnosis treatment at Seven Stars, contact us today at 844-601-1167.

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