Anxiety as a Common Biomarker for School Children With Additional Health and Developmental Needs Irrespective of Diagnosis Academic Article uri icon


  • Currently very little evidence is available regarding the biological characteristics and common comorbid behaviors that are associated with children characterized by learning difficulties who require additional support at school. These children are usually referred to as having Additional Health and Developmental Needs by the Australian Government and the associated public education system more broadly though the problems may arise from academic, social and/or emotional stressors and may or may not include children with clinically diagnosed Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between anxiety levels (Spence Children's Anxiety Scale- Parent Report), autism traits (Autism Spectrum Quotient - Child Version) and sleep quality (Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children) in children with Additional Health and Developmental Needs without an intellectual disability, but with either a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (N = 25), Speech and Language Impairment (N = 37) or Other Diagnosis (N = 22). Our results demonstrated that these children with Additional Health and Developmental Needs showed atypically high levels of anxiety and impaired sleep quality, with the ASD group reporting more impairments associated with comorbid anxiety and sleep quality than either of the other clinically diagnosed groups. In fact, greater anxiety level was associated with a greater number of autism traits and poorer sleep quality regardless of diagnostic group suggesting that anxiety is a common experience for children with Additional Health and Developmental Needs. It is suggested that assessment of anxiety, sleep behaviors and autism traits may be useful markers for early identification of children within this population, thus providing scope for early and targeted intervention.

publication date

  • 2019