Autism Plus Mental Illness Affects Disorder's Course, Study Says

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Elmer said her son's diagnosis of ADHD means that he can have access to medications that help with his behavioral problems. But she said his Asperger's diagnosis qualifies him for certain programs at school that would be unavailable to children with an ADHD diagnosis alone.

"It's more difficult to single out the different disabilities. Autism is the umbrella. There are a lot of things are thrown under there," Elmer said. "It's hard to find a doctor that will look for more than one diagnosis."

Li-Ching Lee, one of the authors of the study, said singling out those different disabilities will help ensure that children get the help that best fits their condition.

"We would suggest that clinicians, in addition to core symptoms of autism, they also need to provide an evaluation on these co-existing conditions and recognize that the conditions vary depending on the age of the child," Lee said. "That way, the best intervention for the child can happen as early as possible."

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