Alexithymia in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Its Relationship to Internalising Difficulties, Sensory Modulation and Social Cognition
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Alexithymia is a personality trait frequently found in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and has been linked to impairments in emotion recognition and empathy. The presentation of alexithymia within ASD at younger ages remains unexplored, and was examined in the present study. Alexithymia rates were significantly elevated in ASD (55 %; 31/56 scoring above cut-off) versus non-ASD adolescents (16 %; 5/32 scoring above cut-off). Within individuals with ASD, alexithymia was associated with increased self-reported anxiety, parent-reported emotional difficulties, self-reported sensory processing atypicalities, and poorer emotion recognition, but was not associated with theory of mind ability. Overall, our results suggest that alexithymia is highly prevalent, and has selective cognitive correlates in young people with ASD.
KeywordsAlexithymia Autism spectrum disorder Emotion recognition Theory of mind Anxiety Sensory processing
We would like to thank the participants and their parents for taking the time to contribute to this study. The study was supported by the Medical Research Council. Furthermore, the authors acknowledge financial backing from the Department of Health via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre and Dementia Unit awarded to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with King’s College London and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. This paper presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the MRC, the NIHR or the Department of Health.
This study was funded by the Medical Research Council (Grant Number: G0400065).
TC, FH, GB, ES and AP obtained funding for the study. FH, TC, ES, GB, AP and CRGJ all participated in the conceptualisation and design of the study. CRGJ was additionally responsible for data acquisition. BM and VCL were responsible data analysis and interpretation and drafted the manuscript. CE participated in data analysis and interpretation. All authors read, approved and provided feedback on the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the South East Multicentre Research Ethics Committee (REC) (05/MRE01/67).
Written consent was obtained from all parents and informed consent from all participants.
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