Despite the well-documented success of cognitive restructuring techniques in the treatment of anxiety disorders, there is still little clarity on which cognitions underpin fear and anxiety in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. This study examined whether certain cognitive appraisals, known to be associated with fear and anxiety in typically developing groups, may help explain these emotions in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. It also investigated relations between these cognitive appraisals and theory of mind. Appraisals, fear and anxiety were assessed using a vignette approach in 22 children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and 22 typically developing children. The two groups differed significantly on all four appraisal types. Anxiety was negatively correlated with future expectancy and positively with problem-focused coping potential in the high-functioning autism spectrum disorder group but was not correlated with appraisals in the typically developing group. The two appraisals associated with fear were emotion-focused coping potential (in the high-functioning autism spectrum disorder group only) and self-accountability (in the typically developing group only). Linear regression analysis found that appraisals of emotion-focused coping potential, problem-focused coping potential and future expectancy were significant predictors of theory-of-mind ability in the high-functioning autism spectrum disorders group. These findings indicate that specific, problematic patterns of appraisal may characterise children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. © The Author(s) 2013.
- high-functioning autism