Emotional intelligence in children with autism spectrum disorder

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Kingston, Sydney E.
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Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience emotion-based difficulties (Bal et al., 2010; Laurent & Rubin, 2004), which can increase their risk for a variety of adverse outcomes, particularly in terms of mental health (Hudepohl, Robins, King, & Henrich, 2015; Mazefsky, 2015). Emotional intelligence (EI) has been used as a lens for investigating various outcomes in typically developing individuals (Poulou, 2014); however, few studies have examined EI in individuals, particularly children, with ASD. As such, the present study attempted to shed light on the EI of this population and its influence on mental health. Six children with ASD and 14 typically developing children (ages 8-12 years) and their parents participated in this study. Children and their parents completed a series of measures to assess EI and various social, behavioural, and emotional outcomes. The findings suggest that at the group level, EI and levels of anxiety and depression do not differ significantly between children with and without ASD. A closer examination of EI scores revealed substantial heterogeneity in EI abilities in children with ASD. Additionally, EI appears to be differentially related to anxiety and depression for children with ASD and their typically developing counterparts. Results of this study may have implications for the development of assessment and intervention procedures and help to further elucidate the developmental trajectory of EI in individuals with ASD; however, due to small sample size, future research should examine this further. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.
Autism spectrum disorder, ASD, Emotional intelligence, Children, Heterogeneity, Individual differences, Mental health