Academic journal article Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies

Beliefs, Emotions, and Behaviors - Differences between Children with Asd and Typically Developing Children. a Robot-Enhanced Task

Academic journal article Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies

Beliefs, Emotions, and Behaviors - Differences between Children with Asd and Typically Developing Children. a Robot-Enhanced Task

Article excerpt


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with amplified emotional responses and poor emotional control (Mazefsky et al., 2013). Given the specific problems of persons with ASD with cognitive flexibility and difficulties in behavior changing (Panerai, Tasca, Ferri, Genitori D'Arrigo, & Elia, 2014; Geurts, Verte, Oosterlaan, Roeyers, & Sergeant, 2004), the greater use of maladaptive strategies and the less effective implementation of adaptive strategies are not surprising. In addition, deficits in perspective taking (Baron-Cohen, 1997) may also limit the ability to evaluate the responses of others, and lead to misunderstanding and frustration. Moreover, child frustration resulting from core symptoms of ASD, related to social and communicative deficits, and the behavioral rigidity associated with these conditions, contribute greatly to the emergence of behavior problems in children with ASD (Whitman & Ekas, 2008).

The research on Theory of Mind skills shows that children with ASD have significant difficulties in identifying and conceptualizing the thoughts and feelings of others and themselves (Attwood, 2004; Baron-Cohen & Joliffe, 1997; Baron-Cohen, O'Riordan, Stone, Jones, & Plaisted, 1999; Heavey, Phillips, Baron-Cohen, & Rutter, 2000; Kleinman, Marciano, & Ault, 2001). This also affects the person's ability to monitor and manage emotions, within themselves and others. Also, extensive research on Executive Function suggests that individuals with ASD seem to be impulsive, with a relative lack of insight that affects the cognitive control of emotions (Eisenmajer et al., 1996; Nyden, Gillberg, Hjelmquist, & Heiman, 1999; Ozonoff, South, & Miller, 2000; Pennington & Ozonoff, 1996).

Underlying mechanisms of dysfunctional emotions and maladaptive behaviors in ASD - ABC model

Based on Ellis's (1994; David et al. 2005) binary model of distress, there are functional (e.g., sad, concerned/worried) and dysfunctional (e.g., depressed mood, anxious/panicked) negative emotions, which are both quantitatively and qualitatively different, and yet interrelated. The difference between the two types of emotions is established (Ellis & DiGiuseppe, 1993) based on (1) on their subjective experiences, (2) their subsequent adaptive/maladaptive behaviors/behavioral tendencies, and (3) their underlying irrational beliefs versus rational beliefs.

Dysfunctional emotions such as: unhealthy anger and depressed mood (dysfunctional variant of sadness) are a serious concern for children with ASD especially because they may engage in inadequate coping strategies compared to matched peers when faced with negative events (Jahromi et al., 2012). Moreover, dysfunctional emotions correspond to clinical problems, while functional emotions are expressing the normal distress experienced when people are facing adverse situations (David et al. 2005). Behavior problems associated with dysfunctional emotions represent important challenges for parents of children with ASD, these difficulties are strongly related to parental distress more than are core symptoms of the disability per se (Taylor & Seltzer, 2011; Baker, Blacher, Crnic, & Edelbrock, 2002).

The aim of our study was to test the differences between the dysfunctional/functional emotions and maladaptive/adaptive behaviors in children with ASD and typically developing children and the underlying mechanisms associated with dysfunctional emotions and maladaptive behaviors. Our hypotheses is that a. children with ASD will illustrate more irrational beliefs compared to typically developing children; b. children with ASD will illustrate more dysfunctional emotions compared to typically developing children; c. children with ASD will illustrate more maladaptive behaviors compared to typically developing children; d. children with ASD will demonstrate a high level of rigidity and use the same strategy to solve one task compared to typically developing children who will use different types of strategies to solve the problem. …

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