Protocol for a longitudinal study investigating the role of anxiety on academic outcomes in children on the autism spectrum

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Adams, D
Malone, S
Simpson, K
Tucker, M
Rapee, RM
Rodgers, J
Keen, D
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Background Children on the autism spectrum are consistently reported to underachieve compared to ability. In typically developing children, anxiety is a strong predictor of poor school performance. Despite the high prevalence of anxiety disorders among children on the spectrum, the impact of their anxiety on academic achievement is under-researched. The main aim of this project is to determine the moderating role anxiety may have in the development of academic learning behaviours (academic enablers) in children on the spectrum. This project addresses a gap in knowledge about the possible associations between anxiety and academic achievement in children on the spectrum. Understanding these associations opens up the possibility of new intervention pathways to enhance academic outcomes through anxiety reduction/prevention. Methods This longitudinal study will aim to recruit 64 children on the spectrum aged 4-5 years and their parents. Information will be gathered from children, parents and teachers. Children will be randomly assigned to one of two conditions in order to experimentally manipulate anxiety levels in the sample: Experimental (to receive an anxiety reduction/prevention program, N = 32) or control (no intervention/treatment as usual, N = 32). The primary outcome measures are child academic skills and enabling behaviours assessed using the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales and the WIAT-II. Anxiety will be assessed through parent and teacher report. Assessments will be conducted at baseline, post-experimental manipulation of anxiety, and within the first year of formal schooling. It is hypothesised that anxiety will moderate the relationship between autism characteristics and academic enablers. Dissemination Results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed manuscripts and conference presentations. Lay summaries will be provided to all participants and available on the research centre website.

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PLoS One

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© 2021 Adams et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Adams, D; Malone, S; Simpson, K; Tucker, M; Rapee, RM; Rodgers, J; Keen, D, Protocol for a longitudinal study investigating the role of anxiety on academic outcomes in children on the autism spectrum, PLoS One, 2021, 16, pp. e0257223