The Brain Biology of ADHD & Autism

This article is from our series, Education Reform: A Simple Blueprint for Human-Friendly Education. For a directory of all articles in this series, click here. To get the full series in one downloadable PDF, sign-up for the free report in the black box on the right. 

brain biology of adhd & autism

Welcome to part 3 of our 3-part series on special education. In part 1, we explored the brain biology of learning disabilities. In part II, we explored How to Solve and Prevent Learning Disabilities.

The brain biology of ADHD & autism is very similar to the brain biology of learning disabilities, as explained in the previous article. Just like learning disabilities, ADHD and autism are caused by neuron brain wires that do not properly connect.  This situation is most often caused by a lack of electrical power in the brain.

The brain runs on electricity, just like your refrigerator.  People who’ve experienced “brown-outs” know what happens when there is not enough electricity; their lights, refrigerators, and all other electrical appliances go out sporadically.

The same thing happens in an ADHD and autistic brain; a low power supply in the brain means sections of the brain go out sporadically. The brain gets its power from chemicals, such as: serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, etc.  But, some brains simply can’t produce enough brain chemicals. Or, they may struggle to regulate brain chemicals and maintain “normal” levels of connections.  The result is ADHD or autism.

ADHD is caused by a low power-supply in just one region of the brain, the Front Brain.

Autism is caused by inconsistent power in any of the other regions of the brain.  This is why autism is called a “spectrum” disorder. The different symptoms and severity of those symptoms depend on: the affected regions of the brain, the brain chemicals involved, and the amount of each brain chemical.

“Executive function” (EF)is a common challenge for people with autism. EF is managed by the Front Brain. So, if someone with autism has EF challenges, the problem is happening in the same region of the brain that causes ADHD.

Learning disabilities are caused by inconsistent power supplies to a limited number of sections in the Back Brain. This is why many people diagnosed with autism are often diagnosed with learning disabilities. The truth is, both symptoms share the same biological cause.

Both ADHD & autism share the same biological patterns as learning disabilities. Therefore, solutions for managing these conditions remain consistent with recommendations in the previous article, How to Solve and Prevent Learning Disabilities.

So far, in the series on education reform, we’ve explored the core problems of education in the United States, a simple model for effective learning, and how that model helps us resolve our top problems. We’ve also discussed how this model relates to special education.

Next, it’s time to explore Ideal Instructional Models, schools and programs that are successfully implementing the best-practices of Complete Human Education.

To our students’ success,

Susan Kruger Signature



Susan Kruger, M.Ed.

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