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

New study shows link between ADHD and vision impairment in children

February 26, 2016
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the most frequently encountered neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, and a new study from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently published ...

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.

Language problems common for kids with ADHD, study finds

April 21, 2014
(HealthDay)—Children who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are nearly three times more likely to have language problems than kids without ADHD, according to new research.

Anxiety measure for children with autism proven reliable

December 8, 2016
A new method devised by a Drexel University professor to diagnose children on the spectrum for anxiety symptoms—which tend to be masked by symptoms of autism—was proven effective in a recent study.

Common brain changes found in children with autism, ADHD and OCD

July 27, 2016
A team of Toronto scientists has found similarities in brain impairments in children with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

New study: Children with autism may be over-diagnosed with ADHD

October 28, 2016
A well-established screening tool used to assess children for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be less accurate when a child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Pediatric researchers report that children ...

Recommended for you

What can twitter reveal about people with ADHD?

November 9, 2017
What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania ...

Brain imaging reveals ADHD as a collection of different disorders

November 8, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the ...

Can adults develop ADHD? New research says probably not

October 20, 2017
Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research by FIU clinical psychologist Margaret Sibley.

Nearly a third of college kids think ADHD meds boost grades

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

School year 'relative age' causing bias in ADHD diagnosis, says research

October 9, 2017
Younger primary school children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older peers within the same school year, new research has shown.

Eye movements reveal temporal expectation deficits in ADHD

September 12, 2017
A technique that measures tiny movements of the eyes may help scientists better understand and perhaps eventually improve assessment of ADHD, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

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.