The Relationship Between Intolerance of Uncertainty, Sensory Sensitivities, and Anxiety in Autistic and Typically Developing Children

J Autism Dev Disord. 2016 Jun;46(6):1962-1973. doi: 10.1007/s10803-016-2721-9.


Guided by a recent theory that proposes fundamental differences in how autistic individuals deal with uncertainty, we investigated the extent to which the cognitive construct 'intolerance of uncertainty' and anxiety were related to parental reports of sensory sensitivities in 64 autistic and 85 typically developing children aged 6-14 years. Intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety explained approximately half the variance in autistic children's sensory sensitivities, but only around a fifth of the variance in typical children's sensory sensitivities. In children with autism only, intolerance of uncertainty remained a significant predictor of children's sensory sensitivities once the effects of anxiety were adjusted for. Our results suggest intolerance of uncertainty is a relevant construct to sensory sensitivities in children with and without autism.

Keywords: Anxiety; Intolerance of uncertainty; Sensory sensitivities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Sensation Disorders / complications
  • Sensation Disorders / psychology*
  • Uncertainty*