Changing Autism Traits in Childhood Can Be Linked to Mental Health Conditions

November 27, 2023

Children Who Decreased Restrictive and Repetitive Behaviors Had Increased Anxiety

A recent research article produced by the MIND Institute has discovered a link between changes in core autism traits and the development of additional mental health challenges during elementary school years. This work included 75 children on the spectrum between the ages of 6 and 11 who were part of the MIND Institutes’s Autism Phenome Project, a long-term study aiming to identify subtypes of autism. The authors evaluated participants for mental health symptoms and restricted and repetitive behaviors through parental interviews and questionnaires. The study found that children who had increased social-communication challenges had more anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms and disruptive behavior problems than children without such challenges. The study also reported that children who decreased their restricted and repetitive behaviors, on the contrary, had more anxiety. Co-author David Amaral indicated that the increased anxiety occured in children whose cognitive functioning was in the typical range. He suggests that due to higher cognitive ability, these children could become aware of their social challenges which could result in increased anxiety. According to the authors, this study is the first to demonstrate an association between mental health challenges and increases in the severity of social-communication difficulties for children on the spectrum.

Original Article

Original Study

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