Risk Factors for Mental Health Concerns and Seizures in Pre-teens and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

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McGarry, Caitlin
Autism Spectrum Disorder , Adolescent Mental Health
Objectives: The purpose of this thesis was to identify risk factors for the development of mental health concerns in pre-teens and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and in particular the role of early childhood ASD symptomatology in their development. Additionally, this thesis generated prevalence estimates for mental health concerns in Canadian adolescents with ASD. Methods: The parents of 390 individuals with ASD were invited to participate in a survey, either online or by mail. Sixty-seven parents completed and returned surveys. Kendall tau b correlation coefficients were calculated for the association between age at assessment with ADI-R and score in each domain. Prevalence estimates with 95% confidence intervals were generated, and the Kappa statistic was used to determine the strength of agreement between parent-reported diagnoses and clinical CBCL scores. Finally, bivariate analysis was used to determine if childhood ASD symptomatology was associated with mental health in adolescence, followed by logistic regression modeling to evaluate the effect of other possible risk factors. Results: Scores on two domains of the ADI-R were significantly associated with age at assessment, therefore, it was necessary to control for age at assessment with the ADI-R on these domains in the analysis conducted in Chapter Four. Forty-five percent of the study sample met case criteria for a comorbid psychiatric disorder. Anxiety, mood and attention-deficit disorders were the most common disorders in this sample. Early childhood ASD symptoms were not associated with the development of mental health concerns in adolescence. Family history and female gender were associated with the development of mental health concerns in adolescence. Conclusions: Nearly half of the individuals in our sample have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, or are experiencing clinically significant symptoms that may be indicative of such a disorder. Our findings of discrepancies between parent-reported diagnoses and CBCL scores, indicates that many individuals in our sample are experiencing clinically significant mental health concerns, but do not have an official diagnosis. Finally, as has been reported previously, family history of mental illness and female gender were found to be associated with the development of a mental health concern in adolescence.
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