Researchers disentangle relationship between autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and ADHD in children

April 18, 2017

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience internalizing and externalizing problems at higher rates than typically developing children, which could worsen social impairment, according to researchers with the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research.

The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, compared social impairment scores in 57 (3-17 years, 82.5 percent male) with ASD, either with or without heightened levels of internalizing (anxiety) or externalizing (attention deficit hyperactivity or ADHD) symptoms.

Children with heightened anxiety problems showed higher impairment on social cognition, social communication, social motivation, and restricted interests/repetitive behavior. Children with heightened ADHD traits showed higher impairment on social communication and social awareness.

"These findings suggest similarities and differences in how social deficits in ASD may worsen with anxiety or ADHD symptoms," said Angela Scarpa, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research and an associate professor of psychology in the College of Science. "With co-occurring anxiety, physiological arousal dysregulation may underlie emotional problems that can heighten both social avoidance and cognitive rigidity in ASD, whereas co-occurring ADHD traits may reflect poor attentional control that diminishes social awareness."

In the paper, the researchers cite previous studies that found that approximately 40 percent of children with ASD also have anxiety, and about 38 percent have depression. A previous study also found that between 30 and 50 percent of children with ASD also have ADHD.

"Due to the fact that anxiety and ADHD have been found to occur at higher rates in individuals with ASD, it is important to note how these clinical symptoms may influence ," said Reina Factor, of Los Angeles, California, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science. "The results suggest that and ADHD should be routinely assessed in children with ASD and taken into consideration for treatment planning."

Explore further: New study shows link between ADHD and vision impairment in children

More information: Reina S. Factor et al. Does the Presence of Anxiety and ADHD Symptoms Add to Social Impairment in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder?, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-3025-9

Related Stories

More links seen between autism, ADHD

August 26, 2013

(HealthDay)—Kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are 20 times more likely to exhibit some traits of autism than children without ADHD, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Children with ADHD often live in chaotic households

March 9, 2017

Researchers often observe inadequate parenting, a negative emotional climate and household chaos in families of children with ADHD. A research group at Goethe University Frankfurt and the universities of Bremen, Heidelberg, ...

Could the 'Mediterranean' diet help prevent ADHD?

January 30, 2017

(HealthDay)—Kids who follow a Mediterranean diet—high in fruits, vegetables and "good" fats—may be less likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a small study suggests.

Unhealthy diet during pregnancy could be linked to ADHD

August 18, 2016

New research led by scientists from King's College London and the University of Bristol has found that a high-fat, high-sugar diet during pregnancy may be linked to symptoms of ADHD in children who show conduct problems early ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.