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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 469594, 8 pages
Research Article

Applying an ESSENCE Framework to Understanding Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD: Retrospective Parent Reports of Childhood Problems

1Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm 17177, Sweden
2VUB/KOGNUS, Saint Göran Hospital, Northern Stockholm Psychiatry, Stockholm 11281, Sweden

Received 12 February 2013; Accepted 25 February 2013

Academic Editors: E. Fernell, C. Gillberg, and H. Minnis

Copyright © 2013 Stephanie Plenty et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasingly being made in adulthood. However, assessments can fail to address the diverse range of problems that patients have experienced. The current study applied an early symptomatic syndromes eliciting neurodevelopmental clinical examinations (ESSENCE) framework to explore retrospectively reported childhood developmental and behavioral problems. It examined if adult ASD and ADHD patients would show problems outside those reflected in the respective diagnostic criteria, and also if these patient groups would show more extensive childhood problems than other psychiatric patients. Parents of adults with ADHD (n = 130), ASD (n = 57), coexisting ADHD and ASD (n = 38), and other psychiatric disorders (n = 56) reported on a range of childhood problems. Descriptions of the ADHD, ASD, and ADHD+ASD groups reflected greater impairment than descriptions for patients with other psychiatric disorders in most problem areas. Although differences were observed between ADHD and ASD patients in the core diagnostic areas, these syndromes also shared a number of childhood difficulties. The ESSENCE approach can assist in understanding the symptom history of adult ADHD and ASD patients and can be helpful to distinguish their childhood experiences from other psychiatric patients' experiences.