top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Amanda Neal

A quick guide to diagnoses in adolescence: Autism, OCD, and ADHD (Part 1)


Adolescence is a critical period for the identification and diagnosis of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These conditions share some overlapping features, making accurate diagnosis essential. Understanding some of the basics in these three commonly co-occurring disorders is an important first step in getting your adolescent the therapeutic help they might need.

teenager with autism

Today, let's talk about Autism Spectrum Disorder...

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a range of social, communicative, and behavioral challenges. Across the lifespan, the diagnosis is typically based on the presence of persistent deficits in two core domains: social communication and restricted, repetitive behaviors.

Specific diagnostic criteria for ASD include:

- Social Communication Impairments: Adolescents with ASD often struggle with understanding and responding to social cues. They may have difficulty with nonverbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact, reading facial expressions, or interpreting social nuances. Deficits in reciprocity, such as engaging in conversations and sharing emotions, are common.

- Restricted, Repetitive Behaviors: Adolescents with ASD exhibit a range of repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. These behaviors can include repetitive hand-flapping, rigid adherence to routines, and intense preoccupation with specific topics or objects. 

How is ASD different from OCD?

Repetitive behaviors!

ASD is characterized by a broad spectrum of repetitive actions, encompassing stereotyped movements, insistence on sameness, and adherence to specific routines. These behaviors are inherent to the core features of ASD.

However, OCD also involves repetitive behaviors, but these are specifically manifested as compulsions, which are driven by obsessive thoughts.

In OCD, the repetitive actions are purposeful and aimed at alleviating anxiety or preventing feared events, distinguishing them from the more varied and intrinsic repetitive behaviors seen in ASD.

How is ASD similar to ADHD and OCD?

Impaired Executive Functioning:

Adolescents with ASD and those with ADHD may exhibit deficits in executive functions, such as attention, working memory, and impulse control.

Rigidity and Routine:

Adolescents with ASD often exhibit a preference for routine and can become distressed when routines are disrupted. Similarly, individuals with OCD may develop rigid routines as a way to cope with anxiety, and deviations from these routines can cause distress.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our ASD, OCD, and ADHD series!


Dr. Amanda Neal
Dr. Amanda Neal

Dr. Amanda Neal, Psy.D. is a postdoctoral clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy and testing for adolescents, adults, and parents in Pleasantville and virtually in New York State. She specializes in the assessment and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive DIsorder, and Anxiety Spectrum Disorders.

Learn more about Dr. Neal at

(914) 488-4343


bottom of page