Anxiety is one of the most prevalent co-occurring symptoms in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The assessment and treatment recommendations proposed here are intended to help primary care providers with the assessment and treatment of anxiety in ASD.
The Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network/Autism Intervention Research on Physical Health Anxiety Workgroup, a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers with expertise in ASD, developed the clinical recommendations. The recommendations were based on available scientific evidence regarding anxiety treatments, both in youth with ASD and typically developing youth, and clinical consensus of the workgroup where data were lacking.
Assessment of anxiety requires a systematic approach to evaluating symptoms and potential contributing factors across various developmental levels. Treatment recommendations include psychoeducation, coordination of care, and modified cognitive-behavioral therapy, particularly for children and adolescents with high-functioning ASD. Due to the limited evidence base in ASD, medications for anxiety should be prescribed cautiously with close monitoring of potential benefits and side effects.
Assessment and treatment of clinical anxiety in youth with ASD require a standardized approach to improve outcomes for youth with ASD. Although this approach provides a framework for clinicians, clinical judgment is recommended when making decisions about individual patients.