Previous research has suggested that the likelihood of experiencing mental health problems is increased in children and young people with learning disabilities if they also have autism.
The researchers in this study were interested in looking at symptoms of anxiety in this population, hypothesising that they may experience symptoms of anxiety at a greater level than the general population, although, as they point out, this is not supported by the published research at present.
They worked with 150 children and young people (aged 5-18) from a metropolitan district in the North of England. The young people were screened for symptoms of anxiety using two scales: the Reiss Scales for Children’s Dual Diagnosis, a 60-item, child and adolescent version of the “Reiss Screen”. designed to screen for mental health problems and identify which are ‘no problem, a problem, or a major problem.’and the Glasgow Anxiety Scale. a 27-item scale shown to discriminate anxious from non-anxious participants with good test–retest reliability and internal consistency.
They found a prevalence rate for anxiety, as reflected by scores on the Glasgow scale, of 32.6% for children and young people with learning disabilities and autism, higher than would be expected.
They raise a key question about the nature of the risk factors that might influence this high prevalence of anxiety, and suggest that assessment for anxiety should be part of the assessment of children and young people with learning disabilities.
Prevalence of anxiety disorder in children and young people with intellectual disabilities and autism, Gobrial, E & Raghavan R., in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 6, 3, 130 – 140