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The IAN Autism and Adversity Research Study

Date Last Revised: 
February 26, 2018
Date Published: 
February 21, 2018

How do Stressors Affect Children with Autism?

Though adverse and traumatic childhood experiences are common in the general population and strongly associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes throughout life, little is known about the prevalence and impact of these difficulties on the lives children with ASD.

Dr. Connor Kerns is an Assistant Research Professor at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who specializes in autism and co-occurring anxiety disorders. She noticed that though children with ASD are far more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions than other children, rates of trauma-related disorders, such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), in ASD are far lower and rarely considered in autism research. Studies suggest that people with ASD may encounter a range of both obvious stressors (such as bullying, frightening medical procedures, or hospitalizations) and less obvious stressors (intense sensory sensitivities, social stigma, and difficulties coping with change) from a young age. However, few studies have examined the impact of these stressors on the mental health of children with ASD or asked what kinds of experiences youth with ASD and their parents identify as traumatic.

Because of this gap in our knowledge, Dr. Kerns decided to learn more and is working with the IAN Research Team on the Childhood Adversity and Autism Research Study. We hope to answer these questions:

  • How prevalent is exposure to potentially traumatic and other stressful life events in children with ASD?
  • Are symptoms of PTSD and other stress-related disorders expressed in different ways by those with ASD and thus not captured by existing diagnostic criteria or assessment tools?
  • Are sources of stress and trauma different for those who have ASD?
  • How can we tell if a child with ASD has experienced a potentially traumatic event and traumatic stress symptoms?

This study will help test a new measure designed to understand the sources and symptoms of stress, including traumatic stress, in youth with ASD, and evaluate the impact of different stressors on the behavior, development, and well-being of youth with autism.

Who is Eligible to Participate?

Parents are asked to complete a series of surveys about their child(ren) with ASD ages of 12–17 years. Children should be able to communicate in full sentences. No reported history of an adverse or potentially traumatic event is required.

Select families who complete the IAN Autism and Adversity Research Study will be invited to join the IAN Autism and Adversity Research Follow-Up Study twelve months later.

How do I Join?

Current IAN Research participants: If your child meets study eligibility, you will be invited by email to join the IAN Autism and Adversity Study.

Not an IAN Research participant and want to participate in the IAN Autism and Adversity Research Study? Please join IAN Research and complete your Family Profile. If your child meets study eligibility, you will be invited to join the IAN Autism and Adversity Research Study.

Our Sincere Thanks

Thank you to all who participate in IAN Research.  Your involvement leads to discovery. Together we can provide information and support to improve policy and programs to support children and families impacted by autism.

You will receive a $25 Amazon.com gift code for each child for whom you complete the IAN Autism and Adversity Research Study, and a $25 Amazon.com gift code for each child for whom you complete the IAN Autism and Adversity Research Follow-Up Study.

Need Assistance?

Please contact the IAN Research team at 443-923-4140 or researchteam@kennedykrieger.org

(Principal Investigator: Dr. Paul H. Lipkin; JHM-IRB NA_00002750)

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