Anxiety measure for children with autism proven reliable

Posted on December 12, 2016

Photo: flickr

Drexel University professor devised a new method to diagnose children on the spectrum for anxiety symptoms – which tend to be masked by symptoms of autism was recently proven to be effective.

Connor Kerns, PhD, an assistant research professor in A.J. Drexel Autism Institute of Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health highlighted that anxiety is mostly felt by the person inside their bodies and minds and is not always obvious to others, as such, it is considered an internalizing symptom. For instance, a child may avoid a social situation because they are not socially motivated – a symptom of autism spectrum disorder – or because they are afraid of being socially rejected – a symptom of anxiety.

In most cases, parents discern their child’s behaviour whether it is a symptom of autism or of anxiety as some children with autism can have difficulties expressing themselves. However, it is sometimes difficult to tell apart the symptoms of autism or anxiety and this is when clear clinical guidelines may greatly improve the ability to reliable diagnose anxiety issues.

Taking that into account, Kerns developed an autism-specific variant for a pre-existing anxiety assessment tool. Kerns’ Autism Spectrum Addendum (ASA) to the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule – Child/Parent (ADIS-IV-C/P) adds new questions that are woven into the original interview to help determine what behaviors might be part of the child’s autism and what might be related to anxiety.

With a correct diagnosis of anxiety, those children could begin crucial treatment.
“Treating anxiety is important in autism spectrum disorder because anxiety is associated with significantly more impairment for the child and their family,” Kerns explained. “That can include more stress, more self-injurious behavior and depression, and more social difficulties and physical ailments.”

Majority of children with autism who received therapy for their diagnosed anxiety disorders were noticed to be rated as “improved” or “very improved” afterward.

The ASA method was developed in 2014 by Kerns and recently was used to test in a study of 69 children with autism who had a concern about anxiety, but no prior diagnosis.
“All children interested in the study completed a comprehensive evaluation to determine if they did, in fact, demonstrate clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and autism according to the ADIS/ASA interview,” Kerns said. “All ADIS/ASA interviews were video- or audio-recorded and listened to a second time by a blind assessor, who came to their own conclusions about the child’s diagnosis.”
In the end results, Kerns’ autism-specific addition to the anxiety evaluation aligned with the blind assessors and other measures of anxiety, demonstrating its reliability as a diagnostic tool.

“These findings are extremely important to those who may wish to use the ADIS/ASA in their research or in their clinical work with youth on the spectrum,” Kerns said, “They suggest that the ADIS/ASA is a reliable tool for comprehensively assessing anxiety in children with autism that may reduce the likelihood that anxiety goes undetected and untreated, while also reducing inconsistencies in research.

It is important to have a reliable method to diagnose anxiety in children with autism as it plays an important role in their future.


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Category(s):Anxiety, Autism spectrum disorders, Social Anxiety / Phobia

Source material from Psy Post


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