Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline

Clinical Psychology - Florida School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Lisa Costas, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Marcia Pita, Ph.D.


Early evidence of co-occurring anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) dates back to the first descriptions of ASD by Leo Kanner (1943) and Hans Asperger (Frith & Mira, 1992). While current research has identified anxiety disorders as one of the most prevalent co-occurring disorders in children and adolescents with ASD, little is known about the nature of the relationship between these disorders. In an effort to explain these high prevalence rates, recent research has started to investigate the relationship between these two disorders. To join these efforts, this clinical research project explored the role of anxiety in diagnosis of children and adolescents with ASD. To guide the exploration of this role, the following research questions were answered: How prevalent or significant is anxiety in children and adolescents with ASD?; How do symptoms of anxiety manifest in children and adolescents with ASD?; and How is anxiety conceptualized, assessed, and treated in ASD? Results from this literature review indicate that there are current limitations in this area of research that need to be addressed to form an accurate conceptualization of anxiety symptoms in this population. Steps to resolve these limitations are discussed and areas of further research are explored. Recommendations for accurately assessing and treating co-occurring symptoms of anxiety in youth with ASD are provided and a suggested conceptualization model based off current research is proposed.


I would like to thank everyone that has supported me throughout my academic journey. First and foremost, I would like to thank my family. To my parents, your love and dedication to your children and grandchildren is unmatched. Both of you have been the greatest examples in my life, and I am eternally grateful for all of the sacrifices that you have made so that I could be where I am today. To my siblings, thank you for all of your love and encouragement along this journey. To my wife, you are simply the best. Thank you for your endless support and for all of the sacrifices that you have made so that I could complete this journey. To my daughter, I love you so much and thank you for always being there to put a smile on my face. I love all of you so much.

I would also like to the thank my dissertation committee, Dr. Costas and Dr. Pita. Both of you have been there for me throughout my entire graduate school journey and have been instrumental in my professional development. Thank you for all of your hard-work and support throughout this process.