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Mikle South Autism Research

A recent study at BYU is shedding light on helping researchers and clinicians find more effective ways of helping children with autism cope with anxiety.

Mikle South, BYU professor of psychology, has recently published a study on the effects of anxiety and IQ on learning in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

The results of the study showed that people with ASD tend to take more risks than people without ASD when they are anxious. Dr. South suggested that perhaps people with ASD are more motivated to take risks when they are anxious because of a fear of failure. In typical development, the possibility of reward is often a stronger motivation than the avoidance of failure.

“Currently many children will hide (sometimes literally) or lash out when they are worried rather than work on relaxation skills, or seeking out others for help.,” South said.

Participants in this study did an activity that measured risk-taking while sensors measured their levels of emotional response. These results show that there is an interaction between cognition and emotion in autism spectrum disorders.

"If we can describe how these children experience emotion, we can help them to predict and understand their own feelings and find more effective ways to cope with worry or stress,” he said.

In addition to his research, South also oversees the autism social skills groups ran by graduate interns at the Clinic for children and teens. Support groups for parents who have children with autism are also held at the same time.

For more information on how to be a part of these groups, please contact the Clinic at 801-422-7759.