Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability, and Emotional Functioning: Relatedness and Particular Impact on Challenging Behavior

Tanja Sappok, Paula Sterkenburg, Julia Bohm

Research output: Contribution to JournalMeeting AbstractAcademic


Aims: Persons with an intellectual disability (ID) show high rates of challenging behaviour (CB),
especially in cases of co-occurring autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The aim of this retrospective
study was to examine the relatedness and impact of ASD, the severity of ID, and the level of
emotional functioning in CB. Methods: The study was conducted at a special outpatient unit
(clinical sample) for adults with ID and comorbid mental or serious behavioural problems
(N = 560). The assessment of ASD, level of ID, and emotional functioning was part of the
regular clinical assessment process. The Scheme of Appraisal of Emotional Development (SAED)
was used to measure emotional development (ED) and the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist (ABC)
for CB. A correlation analysis and the Mann-Whitney test assessed the relatedness of ASD, ID,
and ED (N = 560). A multiple regression analysis was computed to determine the effect of ASD,
the level of ID and of ED on the severity of CB (n = 278). Results: ASD significantly correlated
with the severity of ID (r = .205*) and lower levels of ED (r = -.354*). This decrease occurs
independently of the level of ID. Multiple regression analysis revealed the level of ED to be the
most important predictor for CB (n = 278; OR = −5.97, 95% CI: −9.81; −2.14). Conclusion: For
persons with ID and ASD, the level of emotional functioning has a substantial effect on the
severity of CB. Thus, the assessment of the level of emotional functioning is essential to provide
adequate care for adults with ID, ASD, and CB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-174
JournalJournal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • challenging behaviour
  • development
  • developmental disorders

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