The interplay between sensory processing abnormalities, intolerance of uncertainty, anxiety and restricted and repetitive behaviours in autism spectrum disorder

J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Apr;45(4):943-52. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2248-x.


Sensory processing abnormalities, anxiety and restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRBs) frequently co-occur in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Though the relationship between these phenomena is not well understood, emerging evidence indicates intolerance of uncertainty (IU) may play an important role. This study aimed to determine pathways between sensory abnormalities and RRBs, and the role anxiety and IU may have. We gathered caregiver report data for 53 children with ASD aged 8-16 years. We found sensory under responsiveness and sensory over responsiveness were significantly associated with repetitive motor and insistence on sameness behaviours, and the relationships significantly mediated by IU and anxiety. Our findings indicate different mechanisms may underpin repetitive motor and insistence on sameness RRBs, which can inform treatment interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Sensation Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sensation Disorders / psychology
  • Stereotyped Behavior* / physiology
  • Uncertainty*