High levels of anxiety are being found in autistic children as young as five years in Australian schools, with the feelings increasing with age, according to a study touted as the first of its kind.
“We’re now finding that almost three-quarters of children with autism are impacted by high anxiety levels,” Griffith University researcher Dawn Adams, lead author of the findings, said in a statement on Thursday.
The researchers from the university’s centre focusing on autism, a developmental disorder, including difficulties with social interaction and restricted behavior, analysed anxiety symptoms of more than 90 children aged five to 12 years in mainstream and special schools.
“More than a quarter of children with autism were scared of making mistakes at school.
“Almost a third hesitated in starting a task or worried about understanding it first, which can “impact upon their learning experience and reduce their self-esteem,” said the researchers, whose findings were published in the Journal of School Psychology.
“There is still “scant research exploring anxiety in children with autism at school and almost no work looking at how anxiety might differ in a school setting to that at home.
“Understanding anxiety in children on the autism spectrum within the school context is critical to develop support and identifying strategies to minimise the impact on education, learning and health”, said Adams.
About one in 200 Australians is affected by autism and most of them are boys, according to health industry figures.
The symptoms may be noticeable from the age of two but a firm diagnosis usually cannot be made until a child is three.
“We know that anxiety can impact upon a child’s educational performance, affect recall of academic knowledge and result in poorer academic grades and lower overall school performance,” said Adams.
“Working together across home and school to identify, recognise and support anxiety in children with autism should therefore increase academic outcomes and success.” (Xinhua/NAN)