An investigation into anxiety and depression among mainstream secondary school students with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism

J. S. Hebron

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


Anxiety and depression are common comorbidities in children and young people with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism (AS) (Ghaziuddin, Ghaziuddin, & Greden, 2002). With the majority of these young people integrated into mainstream education, social isolation and high levels of bullying appear especially prevalent during secondary years (Humphrey, 2008). Nevertheless, the body of literature in this area is often limited by methodological concerns (White, Oswald, Ollendick, & Scahill, 2009), with few studies investigating first-hand accounts (Stewart, Barnard, Pearson, Hasan, & O’Brien, 2006). The purpose of the current study was to assess the prevalence of anxiety and depression among a school-based sample of young people with AS, and also to investigate triggers and behavioural responses to internalising problems. A mixed methods approach was taken: 22 students with AS, 21 with dyslexia and 23 with no identified SEN completed a self-report questionnaire; five participants with AS subsequently took part in semi-structured interviews. Consistent with predictions, questionnaire data revealed much higher levels of anxiety in the AS group, compared with both control groups. Significant findings were found for depression and anger, although only when compared with the non-SEN group. Anxiety also emerged from the interviews as a commonly experienced problem, but depression was less apparent. Anger and frustration were clearly described, often in response to challenging social situations, many of which were linked to school. Difficulties were often concealed by using coping strategies and self-reliance, but bullying emerged as especially problematic. While feelings of difference were acknowledged, they tended to be accepted rather than questioned. The findings of this study support much of the current body of research. However, there are potential implications for both clinical and educational practice. These are discussed, along with consideration of the study’s limitations and suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
  • Humphrey, Neil, Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationSchool of Education
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Mental health
  • Anxiety
  • Depression


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