At a time when ASD is diagnosed reliably, children with ASD have already shown emotional vulnerabilities that potentially represent the occurrence of co-morbid affective and behavioral conditions that are very present in older children, publishes a study published in Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).
Authors have found that children with ASD show increased anger and frustration and reduced fear as a response to naturalistic situations. They also found that the ability to experience joy seems untouched in the early stages of the disorder.
"ASD is in most cases in the first two years of life and affects approximately 1 out of 59 children," said major authors Suzanne Macari and Katarzyna Chawarska, a science fellow at the Children's Learning Center at Yale Medical School in New Haven, USA. "This study for the first time documents that at the earliest age when the disorder can be reliably diagnosed, children with ASD already exhibit emotional vulnerabilities that signal the risk of co-morbid affective and behavioral problems."
It is based on a study of emotional development in younger subjects pointing to differential diagnosis of ASD in the northeastern United States and includes 43 children with ASD and 56 non-ASD controls.
Juveniles aged 21 months were engaged in the period from December 2013 to March 2017. Using multi-modal approaches, researchers investigated the intensity of emotional reactions on vocal and facial channels in natural situations with the purpose of causing anger, fear and joy.
"Vulnerabilities are not related to the symptoms of autism and thus contribute to the independent development of complex and highly heterogeneous autism phenotypes," Drs added. Macari and Chawarska. "In addition to targeting social and communication problems, clinicians should also focus on assessing and treating affective symptoms in young children with ASD, hoping to mitigate the weight of comorbid disorders so common in ASD."
Researchers found that when a desired subject was placed outside the reach of a young child, children with ASD showed an elevated level of intensity of anger and frustration. However, when faced with new and potentially threatening objects, their intensity of fear is lower than in comparative groups. Although an elevated response to anger can trigger the development of the emotion of the regulatory system, the attenuated fear response suggests an atypical risk assessment and security risk.
Although there is a prevailing notion that children with ASD do not experience joy as other children, research has shown that the level of joy in response to playful situations was comparable in young children with ASD and control groups. This suggests that in the early stage of the disorder, the ability to experience joy can be intact. The use of this intact emotional competence for therapeutic purposes is essential because activation of positive emotions stimulates learning and research and increases stress. Together, the research reveals the surprising and complex emotional landscape of the juvenile with ASD and gives strong motivation to explore the earlier emotional development of ASD and its role in the emergence of autism.