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Exploring anxiety in young people with autism spectrum disorder

Nearly half of autistic children are anxious due to sensory experiences, phobias and unpredictability, as well as exposure to change and novel situations, researchers say
Picture shows a young male who is autistic. Research shows nearly half of autistic children have anxieties specifically associated with autism and commonly related to sensory experiences.

Nearly half of autistic children are anxious due to sensory experiences, phobias and unpredictability, as well as exposure to change and novel situations, researchers say

Symptoms of anxiety are more common among autistic people and a recent study explored issues relating to its manifestation in autistic children and young people.

Contemporary understandings suggest autistic people may experience a similar range of anxiety disorders to the general population, as well as a range of further anxieties, worries and fears associated with the core features of autistic spectrum conditions.

The papers authors examined data from 12 earlier studies across three countries, which included caregiver-reported

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Nearly half of autistic children are anxious due to sensory experiences, phobias and unpredictability, as well as exposure to change and novel situations, researchers say

Picture shows a young male who is autistic. Research shows nearly half of autistic children have anxieties specifically associated with autism and commonly related to sensory experiences.
Picture: Alamy

Symptoms of anxiety are more common among autistic people and a recent study explored issues relating to its manifestation in autistic children and young people.

Contemporary understandings suggest autistic people may experience a similar range of anxiety disorders to the general population, as well as a range of further anxieties, worries and fears associated with the core features of autistic spectrum conditions.

The paper’s authors examined data from 12 earlier studies across three countries, which included caregiver-reported free text information about anxiety among 287 autistic children and young people.

Findings highlight need to understand anxiety in autistic people

Just over half of respondents reported common anxieties in autistic children, akin to those experienced by neurotypical children, albeit that some – such as social anxiety – were common.

In 46% of responses, however, anxieties were felt to be specifically associated with the core features of autism and commonly related to sensory experiences, very specific and idiosyncratic phobias, exposure to change, unpredictability and exposure to novel situations.

It was also evident that the more significant a person’s autistic symptoms, the more likely they were to experience autism-related anxiety, fear and worries.

The findings highlight the need to understand more fully and describe the manifestation of anxiety in autistic people, as well as to refine approaches to assessment and intervention, especially where anxiety is related to core features of autism. It is also important that those supporting autistic people recognise the significant impact of experiences of extreme anxiety.


Reference

Yen Lau B, Leong R, Uljarevic M et al (2019) Anxiety in young people with autism spectrum disorder: Common and autism-related anxiety experiences and their associations with individual characteristics


Picture of Dave Atkinson, an independent consultant nurse. He looks at research showing nearly half of autistic children have anxieties specifically associated with autism and commonly related to sensory experiences.Dave Atkinson is an independent consultant nurse

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