Monday, 23 December 2013

Heightened anxiety in children with autism

Given that a certain portly chap with a white beard (yes, one of those fat yet fit types) is heading the way of many a household over the coming hours, I'm going to be quite brief in this post about the paper by Victoria Hallett and colleagues* who concluded that their "findings support previous reports of heightened anxiety in children with ASDs [autism spectrum disorders]". The realisation that Christmas can itself be a significant source of anxiety to many people as per the BBC article (here) is perhaps also worth directing your attention to, given the potential for overlap when discussing autism.
By Emile not Santa [Claus] @ Wikipedia 

I've talked (and talked) about how various forms of anxiety do seem to be over-represented when it comes to autism (see here for the mega-post) and the various ways and means that science has so far offered when it comes to helping to manage or relieve such issues, acknowledging that we still have some distance to go on this topic.

The Hallett paper in respect of finding 'parent-reported' anxiety to be present in children with autism is no new thing. That being said, their analysis based on data from TEDS (Twins Early Development Study) adds a new twist to the research in this area, as does their suggestion that "Unaffected co-twins of children with ASDs also showed increased anxiety, generating questions about the potential etiological overlap between ASDs and anxiety". Yes it certainly does generate questions, and in particular, whether the broader autism phenotype (BAP) might have another potential diagnostic string to add to its bow.

I note that at least some of this authorship group have previously talked about autism, twins and issues like anxiety (as part of the so-called internalising traits) as per papers like this one** and this one***. I was drawn to a particular quote in one of those papers: "these traits may serve to exacerbate each other over time" suggestive that intervention-wise at least, treating something like anxiety might have some interesting knock-on effects on the presentation of core autism traits and vice-versa. Another discussion for another time methinks, perhaps alongside the recent paper by Boulter and colleagues**** on intolerance of uncertainty in relation to anxiety present in cases of autism?

Anyhow, without further ado, I wish you all Happy Christmas or Seasons Greetings if you prefer. Stay tuned for the mega-roundup post of autism research that has appeared on this blog during 2013 coming up in the next few days. I leave you with some sound advice when it comes to cooking that over-sized turkey that you've probably bought to avoid any unfortunate incidents or undesirable trips to the smallest room in the house. Oh, and some research news that will hopefully raise a smile to any Hobbit fan...

And just before I go, yet again Shane and Kirsty perform for you the best Christmas song ever...


* Hallett V. et al. Exploring anxiety symptoms in a large-scale twin study of children with autism spectrum disorders, their co-twins and controls. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;54(11):1176-85.

** Hallett V. et al. Association of autistic-like and internalizing traits during childhood: a longitudinal twin study. Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Jul;167(7):809-17. 

*** Hallett V. et al. Investigating the association between autistic-like and internalizing traits in a community-based twin sample. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Jun;48(6):618-27.

**** Boulter C. et al. Intolerance of Uncertainty as a Framework for Understanding Anxiety in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2013 Nov 24. 

---------- Hallett V, Ronald A, Colvert E, Ames C, Woodhouse E, Lietz S, Garnett T, Gillan N, Rijsdijk F, Scahill L, Bolton P, & Happé F. (2013). Exploring anxiety symptoms in a large-scale twin study of children with autism spectrum disorders, their co-twins and controls J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 54 (11), 1176-1185 DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12068