Intolerance of Uncertainty and Anxiety in Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
R. J. Pagaling1, J. Baraskewich2 and C. A. McMorris2, (1)Educational Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, (2)Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Background: Anxiety is common in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and is estimated to occur in about 40% of youth with ASD (van Steensel et al., 2011). Individuals with ASD exhibit two types of anxiety: 1) traditional anxiety disorders that are consistent with the DSM-5 (e.g., social anxiety disorder, specific phobia); and 2) atypical anxiety disorders that are unique to ASD (e.g., other social anxiety, idiosyncratic phobia, fear of change) (Kerns et al., 2011). Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) is one cognitive process implicated in the development and maintenance of anxiety in ASD (Boulter et al., 2014). However, few studies have examined this relationship.

Objectives: The current study will examine: 1) the relationship between IU and atypical and typical anxiety disorders, and 2) IU and anxiety symptom severity in children and youth with ASD. It is hypothesized that IU will be strongly positively associated with atypical anxiety symptoms, as well as severity of anxiety in children and youth with ASD.

Methods: Twenty-five youth aged 8 to 14 with ASD will participate in the present project. Typical and atypical anxiety symptoms will be assessed using the Anxiety Scale for Children with Autism (Rodgers et al., 2016) and The Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule – Autism Addendum (Kerns, et al., 2014). IU will be measured using The Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (Comer et al., 2009). Data collection is partially complete (n=18), with completion expected in Winter 2019. Regression analyses will be conducted to investigate the research questions.

Results: Preliminary analysis showed a significant relationship between child-reported IU and type of anxiety in children with ASD. Additionally, a strong positive relationship was found between total IU, IU subscale prospective anxiety, and anxiety severity. It is anticipated that parent-reported IU will be strongly positively associated with the atypical anxiety symptoms and anxiety severity.

Conclusions: The current study provides further support that children with ASD may exhibit avoidant responses when faced with uncertainty. Findings from the current study will provide valuable insight into the role of IU in applying and facilitating proper interventions to help children and youth cope with their feelings of uncertainty, which in turn may decrease anxiety symptoms.

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