Many autistic children perceive the sensory world around us differently. Some autistic children for example are overwhelmed by sounds or touch. This can make everyday situations such as visiting a busy supermarket a challenging task for families, and being overly sensitive has also been linked to anxiety.
A new project being conducted at the University of Reading’s Centre for Autism and funded by the charity MQ will explore if sensory reactivity, such as being oversensitive to sounds, can predict later anxiety and related mental health symptoms.
The team will follow autistic children for 2 years, starting at age 4, asking caregivers questions about how their child reacts to the sensory world around them, such as sounds and lights. Children’s reactions towards sensory stimuli directly will also be observed, such as different sounds or a touch by a feather. Using questions about anxiety and related symptoms at all time points, the team will look at whether the relationship between sensory reactivity and anxiety and related mental health issues is stable over time. In addition, they will test if early sensory reactivity can predict later mental health symptoms.