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Examining the Similarities and Differences in Behavioral and Emotional Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Those Diagnosed with Anxiety Related Disorders

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
S. J. Weng1,2, M. Sung1,2, M. Raja1, S. Sung1,2, L. Y. Jang1, D. S. S. Fung1,3,4 and Y. P. Ooi1,2,5, (1)Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, Singapore, (2)Office of Clinical Sciences, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore, Singapore, (3)Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore, Singapore, (4)Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore, (5)Psychology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Background: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a debilitating neurodevelopmental condition characterized by deficits in core areas such as social interaction and communication, and is often accompanied by restricted and repetitive behaviors and/or interests. Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Selective Mutism (SM) may often share various forms of social deficits like impaired social behavior and social cognition. Additionally, anxiety often co-occurs with ASD and authors have posited that a host of difficulties in ASD may arise from the fact that these individuals find social interaction unpredictable and anxiety provoking.

Objectives: This study aims to characterize the profiles of individuals with ASD, SM and GAD using the Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) and to examine the similarities and differences in behavioral/emotional problems manifested by these clinical populations.

Methods: A total of 80 participants between the ages of 6-19 years old, who received a diagnosis of ASD, GAD or SM were recruited from the Child Guidance Clinic, an outpatient clinic of the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore. Demographic information and medical history was collected and parents were asked to complete the Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000, 2001), a 118-item parent questionnaire that provides information on the child's behavior and emotions. A one way ANOVA was conducted in order to examine group differences on the subscales of the CBCL.

Results: Preliminary results revealed that there were group differences in some of the subscales scores of the CBCL. Specifically, the categories were: anxious/depressed F (2, 78) =11.27, p<0.0001; withdrawn/depressed F (2, 78) = 6.27, p=0.003; attention problems F (2, 78) =5.52, p=0.006 and somatic complaints F (2, 78) =4.87, p=0.01. Post- hoc analysis revealed that the GAD group scored significantly higher on the anxious/depressed syndrome scales than the SM and the ASD group. The SM group scored significantly higher on the withdrawn/depressed syndrome scales than the GAD and ASD group. The ASD group scored significantly higher on the attention problems scale than the SM group and finally, the GAD group scored significantly higher on somatic problems scale than the SM group.

Conclusions: These preliminary results suggest that the GAD group had higher levels of anxiety symptoms than both the ASD and the SM groups. Additionally, the GAD group had higher levels of somatic problems than the SM group. On the other hand, the SM group had reportedly higher levels of withdrawn/depressed symptoms than the GAD and ASD groups. Finally, the ASD group had higher levels of attention problems than the SM group. These findings suggest some evidence for areas of divergence between disorders which share some similar deficits. The characterization of behavioral and emotional problems in this study contributes to our knowledge of these disorders and can help to lay the groundwork for refining future treatments within these clinical populations.

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