International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Anxiety, Social Skills, and Loneliness in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Anxiety, Social Skills, and Loneliness in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
S. W. White , Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
R. Roberson-Nay , Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
J. Schneider , Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background: Anxiety is often seen in children and adolescents with autism and related conditions; however, little is known about how anxiety may be related to the core social deficits of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Objectives: This study sought to explore relationships among anxiety, loneliness, and degree of social skill deficit in a well-characterized sample of higher functioning youth with ASD.

Methods: Parent- and self-report data were collected from a sample of children diagnosed with ASD (n = 20), age rage: 7 - 14 (mean = 12 years). All participants were verbal and had low average or higher assessed intelligence (average IQ = 92 ± 14.41), with clinical diagnoses of ASD confirmed by ADOS.

Results: There were no significant correlations among global measures of degree of social disability (Social Responsiveness Scale: SRS; Constantino & Gruber, 2005; Social Competence Inventory: SCI; Rydell et al., 1997), loneliness (Loneliness Questionnaire; Asher et al., 1984; Bauminger & Kasari, 2003), and anxiety (Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children: MASC; March, 1997; Child Behavior Checklist: CBCL; Achenbach, 1991). However, children who self-reported elevated levels of anxiety on the MASC also reported greater feelings of social loneliness. Those participants earning ‘above average’ total anxiety scores reported significantly more loneliness than those with less anxiety (F = 6.60, p < .05). A significant relationship between parent-reported anxiety symptoms on the CBCL and social initiative on the SCI (r = -.59, p < .01) also was found.

Conclusions: This correlation may indicate that children whose parents view them as more anxious or depressed have less ability to initiate and get involved with peers. These findings are explored from scientific and clinical perspectives. Recommendations for the assessment of potentially co-occurring problems with anxiety and mood and their impact on treatment planning and success for youth with ASD are offered.

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