Investigation into the relationship between sleep problems, anxiety and challenging behaviour in children and young people with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorder
Introduction: Children with a learning disability (LD) and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are known to suffer from significantly more sleep problems, anxiety and challenging behaviour (CB) than typically developing children, yet little is known about the relationships between these factors in the child LD/ASD population. Aims and Hypotheses: The aim of the current study was to examine the relationships between sleep problems, anxiety and CB in children with LD and/or ASD. It was hypothesised that there would be differences between levels of sleep problems, anxiety and CB in children with LD alone, LD and ASD, and ASD alone. It was further hypothesised that there would be significant positive correlations between the three factors and that sleep problems and anxiety would predict a significant amount of the variance in levels of CB. Method: Postal questionnaires were returned by parents of one hundred and sixty seven parents of children with LD and/or ASD. Questionnaires consisted of parental report measures of sleep problems, anxiety and CB, in addition to general demographic variables. Results and Discussion: Statistical analysis revealed no difference between groups (LD, LD+ASD, ASD) in relation to sleep problems, however, some differences were found between the groups in relation to anxiety and CB. Correlational analysis revealed significant positive associations between the three factors. A hierarchical multiple regression showed that medication, sleep problems and anxiety accounted for 42% of the variance in CB, with a large effect size. These findings suggest that the relationships between sleep, anxiety and CB found in the TD child and adult LD/ASD populations are also evident in the child LD/ASD population and that these relationships should be considered during clinical practice, particularly in the case of CB interventions where sleep problems and/or anxiety are also present.