Effects of Age on the Types and Severity of Excessive Fear or the Absence of Fear in Children and Young Adults With Autism

David M. Richman, Wesley H. Dotson, Chad A. Rose, Samuel Thompson, Layla Abby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study identified (a) patterns of fearful stimuli for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), (b) the severity of the fear, and (c) whether excessive fear or the absence of fear negatively affected the participant's quality of life. A web-based survey was used to distribute a modified and extended version of the Fear Survey Schedule for Children-Revised (Ollendick, 1983) to 328 families with children with ASD. Sixty respondents completed the survey, representing a cross section of individuals with ASD from 3 to 22 years old. Responses were analyzed using both descriptive and multivariate statistical analyses for the total sample and the 3 age groups: 3-7, 8-13, and 14-22 years old. The overall severity of fears decreased and the types of stimuli feared changed from concrete (getting a shot, going to the dentist) to more socially based (being evaluated, being teased) with increasing age. Thus, although the severity of fears may decrease throughout childhood and into early adulthood, the fears that are present may actually have a greater negative effect on daily life functioning and thus warrant prevention attempts to reduce the probability that fears will become more debilitating and restrict their vocational and recreational activities. Results are discussed in terms of early intervention and potential prevention of excessive fears in ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-235
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • autism
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • child safety
  • fears
  • phobias
  • quality of life
  • risk-taking behavior


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