Precursors to the Development of Anxiety Disorders in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Anxiety disorders are extremely common among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), occurring at four times the rate of the general population. The presence of an anxiety disorder negatively affects family functioning, friendship development, and school functioning. Recent research is beginning to provide some clues regarding early risk factors for anxiety in individuals with ASD. Specifically, studies suggest that sensory over-responsivity (SOR) - a set of symptoms characterized by heightened and unusual reactivity to sensory stimuli that occurs more frequently among children with ASD than typically developing children - is associated with anxiety in individuals with ASD. We hypothesize that many of the negative outcomes associated with sensory over-responsivity (SOR), such as avoidance, aggression, and GI problems, primarily occur when SOR leads to the development of an anxiety disorder. The goal of the present research is to conduct an in-depth study of the relationship between SOR and anxiety symptoms in preschool age children with ASD, using parent report, observation, and brain-based measures (brain waves or EEG).

Contact Person

Katie Williams klwill6@med.unc.edu

Website Address

http://autismcenter.duke.edu/research/sensory-processing-and-anxiety-preschool-age-children-and-without-autism-spectrum-disorder

Investigators and Key Personnel

Geraldine Dawson, PhD, Kimberly Carpenter, PhD, Michael Murias, PhD, Guillermo Sapiro, DSc, Grace Baranek, PhD, OTR, John Bulluck, CIS

Primary Funding Source

US Department of Defense (DOD)