Clinical anxiety common in children with autism spectrum disorders

11 Jul 2022
Autistic children
Chan witnessed the effectiveness of Dejian Mind-Body Intervention (DMBI) from a clinical perspective. Photo source: Shutterstock

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are highly likely to suffer from clinical-level anxiety, a recent study has found. ASD severity and sensory processing difficulties appear to aggravate anxiety in this population.

The study included 114 participants (mean age 4.6 years, 82.5 percent boys) who were followed for 3 years. Of those who were evaluable at baseline, nearly half (45 percent) had clinical-level anxiety, as determined by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). At the 3-year follow-up, this proportion increased slightly to 50 percent.

In terms of mean CBCL scores, 82.5 percent of children who scored above the cutoff for clinical anxiety at baseline remained stable by year 3, while 17.5 percent improved, with scores dropping below the clinical cutoff. In contrast, 30.6 percent of children who did not meet the CBCL criteria for clinical anxiety at baseline did so by follow-up.

Multivariate logistic regression found that more severe ASD symptoms, as quantified by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule Calibrate Severity Scale (odds ratio [OR], 0.38, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.17–0.8; p<0.0175) and lower sensory processing disorders, as measured by the Total Sensory Profile tool (OR, 0.9, 95 percent CI, 0.87–0.99; p=0.035) at baseline were significantly indicative of less anxiety at follow-up.

“These findings underscore the need to tailor early anxiety disorder prevention and treatment measures in ASD. Further studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of early, specific treatment of anxiety symptoms for children with ASD,” the researchers said.

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