Autism/ADHD: Is it in the genes?

One of the things that really intrigues me is whether Autism/ADHD may be hereditary.

Since I started this journey of discovery a few years back, I really began to notice a bit of a pattern.  

Meeting other parents with children on the spectrum I started to find that conversations would often turn (particularly as time passed and we grew comfortable in each other’s companies) to the subject of genes.

For so many adults it seems the penny drops.

Through discovering their child’s difficulties, they start to realise that maybe it’s a shared problem.  

So often I hear parents say, “that sounds a bit like me,” or “I think I’m autistic,” to “I used to find it so difficult to make friends.”  

Then there are others who find traits in close family members: “I suspect my partner is…”


But what do we do with this information?  This new found epiphany?

Some adults actively seek to get diagnosed theirselves, to make a little sense of their identity (this is no quick fix, I know of adults waiting up to three or four years to be assessed!).

However, most choose to just carry on.  What’s the point?  They’ve made it that far in life, what difference would it make now?

In my opinion there is no definitive answer and it will be just down to the individual and their desire to understand themselves.

But either way, what a therapeutic feeling that must create when at last you are able to understand why you experienced the world a bit differently.

It may bring with it a range of emotions from frustration, anger, guilt, embarrassment to deep sadness.  This cacophony of feelings can often lead to a crisis point in one’s life; something I hear on the ground a lot.  This news can holt an individual right in their tracks and it takes a great deal of time to digest.

Once this self-realisation happens, it is often quite easy to notice some ‘quirks’ in extended members of the family unit.

Looking back, I can remember stories of a relative who wasn’t able to connect with people; who may have appeared lazy or non-enthused.  A person who wasn’t able to hold a job down and tales of when they did manage to get a job they would vomit before they left the house every single day.

A person I recall eventually self-medicating with alcohol to calm anxiety very few of us could visualise.

Other times, I hear stories of relatives who can’t attend social occasions as they suffer with their nerves.  But what does that actually mean?  Where does that fear derive from?

Then there are some adults who don’t seem to have a filter and we just decide they are ‘rude’.   Ones who inadvertently sabotage friendships by saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing and cannot fathom why somebody would be upset with them as a consequence.

And then there are those undiagnosed adults who may face the difficulty of navigating the world of relationships.  That’s a difficult milestone to overcome when you have a communication disorder and quite understandably pivotal to why so many families break up.

So, is it just here-say or is there something in it?  Could Autism/ADHD actually be genetically linked?

I decided to a bit of research and here’s what I found on the net:

So, intrigued as I was, I decided to use the power of social media to create a poll:


Now I know this is not scientific findings, but it does back up what most of us parents think and more often there are genetic links.

The highest percentage went into the category of a diagnosis (dx) being possible.  That would truly reflect all those parents I talk to who believe it to be connected but have not actively been diagnosed themselves.  One argument for those adults out there who question whether it is worth pursuing at such a late stage, it may actually form part of the real scientific research that can be done on epigenetics of ASD.

The other two categories that were not far off in sharing the votes were those that had received a diagnosis and those who could see possible presentations in the wider sphere of the family unit.  A very knowledgeable adult informed me that this was better known as multiplex families for multiple family members with ASD.

Only 8% ticked that genetic links were not visible.

Of course, there will always be other contributing factors that have heightened the chances, such as external stimuli.

It’s all a bit vague because fundamentally there is a lack of funded research to confirm the theories.

Opportunities are often missed to complete scientific studies because we don’t have the quantifiable amount of adults to study.

An example of this was a lovely mum who contacted me after the poll.

She wanted to make sense of herself and had approached her GP.  She could see links between herself and her child.

Only to be wrongly dismissed with some inaccurate advice that she could already make eye contact. 

She went away feeling confused as to whether she would ever try to get properly diagnosed.

It’s important to get better research tools and better diagnostic tools to help these adults. We would gain so much more understanding on Autism/ADHD as a result.

But it is interesting and good food for thought.  Well, for apples anyway.





  1. Phil Culmer

    Nice to see a post highlighting this – the current belief is that at least 50% of autism is genetic, and that there are many genetic variations that can come together to create autism. With this in mind, though many of the variations in diagnosed people are de novo mutations (ie changes that have occurred for the first time in that person) it is not surprising that a good part of it is genes that other members of the family have, coming together in that person.
    It’s therefore not surprising to see autistic traits in other family members, even if those traits don’t lead to that person finding it appropriate seek a diagnosis.
    It’s also thought by some people that people with autism or autistic traits are likely to find another person with a similar personality easier to relate to, increasing the likelihood of people carrying such genes forming a relationship, and maybe having children in whom those genes are combined.

    1. pdaparenting

      Thank you so much for sharing this information, I was really interested in it! I’m going to share it out with some of the others who have commented on FB. I look forward to connecting more over mutual blogs! 😜

  2. Mumma Birds Boy

    Ooh we have this discussion a lot! My eldest daughter has Tourettes and I see a lot of Ethans traits in his dad too. We should use the blood forms we were given but I don’t think I can put little man through that just yet

    1. PDA Parenting

      Thank you so much for going back to read this. It’s really interesting, so many links in families, I don’t think there is enough research on the subject x

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