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26-09-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2020

Parent Perspectives on the Presentation, Triggers, Impact, and Support of Anxiety in Young Children on the Autism Spectrum

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2020
Kate Simpson, Dawn Adams, Elizabeth Wheeley, Deb Keen
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A high proportion of children with autism experience elevated anxiety, which is evident from an early age. Although parents provide a significant role in recognising the early signs and triggers of their child’s anxiety and in prompting help-seeking, there are few studies using qualitative methods to document parent perspectives around their child’s anxiety. The aim of this study is to explore parent perspectives of their child’s anxiety across home and school.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents of 10 young children (5–8 years) with autism to explore their understanding of their child’s presentation and triggers of anxiety across different settings (home and school) as well as the strategies and supports used to manage the anxiety in the home and school setting. Thematic analysis of the data


Parents reported signs of anxiety were evident in their child from a young age but recognising these signs and distinguishing anxiety from other behaviours was difficult. Triggers identified related to sensory experiences, academic expectations, social demands, and uncertainty, all of which were discussed in relation to the school context. Parents shared how supporting their child with autism is multifaceted and is related to understanding the individual child’s anxiety.


These findings highlight the heterogeneity of anxiety presentation in children with autism and the challenge in differentiating anxiety from other behaviours both in home and school settings.

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