You are currently viewing Understanding AuDHD Strengths

Understanding AuDHD Strengths

By Emma Hinze, Professor Tony Attwood and Dr. Michelle Garnett

AuDHD describes being both Autistic and having Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This combination has gained more attention in recent years. Our last blog in this series described the defining features of AuDHD and the evolution of understanding within the community. In this blog, we describe the strengths of the neurotype and address some current misconceptions.

Highlighting Strengths in AuDHD

AuDHD people each possess a unique set of strengths and abilities that arise from the interplay of traits associated with autism and ADHD. Acknowledging these strengths can lead to significant achievements and fulfilment. Here are some key strengths often found in AuDHD individuals:

Innovative Problem-Solving: AuDHDers excel at combining the rapid, expansive thought patterns of ADHD with the autism spectrum’s capacity for deep, sustained attention to detail. This fusion allows for unique problem-solving abilities, where unconventional and highly effective solutions are often discovered.

Creative Thinking and Divergent Thought Processes: ADHD contributes to lateral and divergent thinking, fostering creativity that, combined with the autistic capacity for intense focus on specific interests, can result in profound artistic talents and inventive outputs.

Hyper-Focused Engagement: When interested in a particular subject or activity, AuDHDers can exhibit remarkable levels of focus and dedication. This hyper-focus can lead to extensive knowledge and skills in specific areas, often surpassing their neurotypical peers.

Tenacity and Adaptability: Living as AuDHD equips the person with a unique set of coping mechanisms, fostering resilience. The sheer determination and tenacity of autism combined with the ADHD capacity to embrace change and new ideas allows the person to develop and repeatedly use strategies for dealing with the diverse challenges they encounter. Neuroplasticity relies on repeated practice of a skill over time. Repetition is a characteristic of autism, and repeated practice is very much needed to increase skill and resilience.

Passion and Intensity: The intense passions often associated with autism can combine with the energetic drive of ADHD, leading to powerful motivation and enthusiasm for pursued interests. This passion can drive significant achievements and deep expertise in chosen fields.

Heightened Perception and Sensory Awareness: Many AuDHDers experience the world with heightened sensory sensitivity, which can lead to a detailed and detailed perception. This trait often leads to advanced skills in areas requiring a high level of sensory discrimination, like music, visual arts, or scientific research.

Misconceptions about being autistic and having ADHD

‘I like my routines and often forget my wallet or phone; maybe I have AuDHD?’ This oversimplification ignores the complex nature of AuDHD. While many people might prefer routines and occasionally forget things, AuDHD involves consistent patterns of attentional and executive functioning challenges, compounded by the unique sensory processing and social communication aspects of autism. The interplay between ADHD and autism in AuDHD creates a distinctive neurodivergent profile that affects individuals in more pervasive and profound ways than the mere preference for routine and occasional forgetfulness.

AuDHD isn’t a “real” condition. This myth dismisses the lived experiences of many AuDHD individuals. AuDHD represents a unique neurodivergent profile where the characteristics of autism and ADHD intersect, reflecting the natural diversity of human brains. Current research and clinical practice recognise and validate this neurodiversity (APA, 2022; Rong et al., 2021).

AuDHDers just need to try harder and lack willpower. This misconception stems from the belief that AuDHD is a problem of motivation or effort. AuDHDers often try as hard as they can to pay attention. Their struggle with attention has nothing to do with attitude. However, it is due to differences in brain function and neurological differences, not a lack of desire or effort.

You can’t focus if you’re an AuDHDer. AuDHD individuals often experience fluctuating focus abilities influenced by their current situation, capacity, sensory sensitivities, and the environmental demands they face. These factors can significantly impact their ability to concentrate on tasks. Far from being careless, they can exhibit profound hyperfocus on subjects or activities they find meaningful or stimulating when conditions align with their needs.

To be AuDHD, you need to be hyperactive. Not all AuDHDers have hyperactivity as a symptom of their ADHD traits. The presence or absence of hyperactivity does not define the condition, and it is important to recognise the diversity of experiences in AuDHD.

Only boys have AuDHD. It’s a common misconception that only boys can be AuDHD. While boys are more likely to be diagnosed autistic or ADHD, it doesn’t mean that girls or women can’t. They are often underdiagnosed due to the different ways traits can present. For instance, girls with ADHD may not exhibit the stereotypical hyperactivity often associated with the condition (Quinn and Madhoo (2014; Novik et al., 2006; Young et al., 2020). Instead, they might:

  • Frequent daydreaming,
  • More difficulties in forming and maintaining peer relationships,
  • Struggle with organisation,
  • Easily overwhelmed,
  • Inattentiveness is generally more common and pronounced,
  • Have issues with “internalising disorders” such as anxiety,
  • Increased Incidence of Low Self-Esteem.

Similarly, the criteria for diagnosing autism were initially based on the presentation in boys. As a result, girls and women who are autistic often defy these stereotypical presentations. They may “mask” their autistic traits, adapting their behaviour to fit societal expectations, which can lead to their autism being overlooked (Green et al., 2019).

Medication is the only treatment for AuDHD: While medication can be a part of a comprehensive therapy plan, it’s not the only approach. A holistic approach that includes strategies, lifestyle modifications, and environmental accommodations can be equally, if not more, beneficial. This could involve tailored educational plans, occupational therapy, mindfulness practices, regular physical activity, and a supportive home, school, or work environment. It’s about creating an environment where AuDHD can thrive by leveraging their unique strengths and abilities.

Where to from here?

If you are interested in learning more, our online courses cover a variety of topics.


American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed., text rev.).

Green RM, Travers AM, Howe Y, McDougle CJ. Women and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Diagnosis and Implications for Treatment of Adolescents and Adults. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Mar 9;21(4):22. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-1006-3. PMID: 30852705.

Novik TS, Hervas A, Ralston SJ, et al. Influence of gender on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in Europe-ADORE. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006;(suppl 1):115-124.

Rong, Y., Chang-Yiang, Y., Yang, Y., Jin, Y., & Wang Y. (2021). Prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in individuals with autism spectrum disorder: A meta-analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 83.

Young S, Adamo N, Ásgeirsdóttir BB, Branney P, Beckett M, Colley W, Cubbin S, Deeley Q, Farrag E, Gudjonsson G, Hill P, Hollingdale J, Kilic O, Lloyd T, Mason P, Paliokosta E, Perecherla S, Sedgwick J, Skirrow C, Tierney K, van Rensburg K, Woodhouse E. Females with ADHD: An expert consensus statement taking a lifespan approach providing guidance for the identification and treatment of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in girls and women. BMC Psychiatry. 2020 Aug 12;20(1):404. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02707-9. PMID: 32787804; PMCID: PMC7422602.