Investigating eye examination-related anxiety in autistic adults

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Abstract

Clinical relevance
It is important to investigate whether anxiety is a barrier to accessing eye examinations for autistic adults, because existing research suggests this population are more likely to develop ophthalmic abnormalities.

Background
Anxiety influences healthcare accessibility for autistic people without learning disabilities. Previous qualitative studies by the research team, with a small sample of autistic adults, have indicated several aspects of eyecare services which cause anxiety. Considering the limited existing research suggesting autistic individuals are more likely to develop ophthalmic abnormalities, this study explored whether this population more widely experiences anxiety when accessing eye examinations.

Methods
A total of 322 UK-based autistic adults completed the Optometric Patient Anxiety Scale (OPAS) online, between July and December 2020. Rasch analysis was used to validate this questionnaire for an autistic adult population, and compare optometric anxiety levels to the general population.

Results
Item infit (0.77 to 1.39) and outfit (0.78 to 1.33) values, the person separation index (2.64), and item (0.99) and person (0.97) reliability coefficients suggested that all 10 items in the OPAS are useful to assess optometric anxiety in an autistic adult population. Item probability curves confirmed the response scale to be appropriate. A comparison of optometric anxiety between the autistic population in the current study and a general population in previous work found no statistically significant difference.

Conclusion
The OPAS is a statistically valid tool for use in the autistic adult population. It appears to suggest no significant difference in optometric anxiety between the autistic adult and general population. However, it is possible that it underestimates the true optometric anxiety of autistic adults since the items do not include some of the anxiety provoking factors for this population which have been indicated in previous studies by the research team.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-550
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Optometry
Volume106
Issue number5
Early online date2 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Rasch analysis
  • autism spectrum conditions
  • eye examinations
  • healthcare accessibility
  • questionnaires

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