A brief review of: Wood, J., Drahota, A., Sze, K., Har, K., Chiu, A., & Langer, D. (2009). Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders: a randomized, controlled trial Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50 (3), 224-234 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01948.x

This is the second of a series of posts about recent studies on treatment interventions for autism. In this study the authors examined the effectiveness of a cognitive behavioral treatment for anxiety symptoms in autism. The study involved 40 children with ASD between the ages of 7 to 11. Seventeen of these children were randomly assigned to an immediate treatment condition. That is, these children would receive the treatment intervention as soon as the study began. The rest of the children (n=23) were assigned to a “wait list” condition. Thus the “wait listed” children began the intervention 16 weeks later. This methodology allows the researchers to compare the outcome (in this case the anxiety symptoms) between the immediate treatment group and the wait list group after the completion of the treatment intervention conducted with the immediate treatment group. If the groups differ (the group receiving the treatment shows an improvement) the authors can conclude that the treatment appears effective. Then the wait list group can start the treatment. The authors found that 75% of the children in the immediate treatment group showed improvement in symptoms after 16 weeks of treatment, compared to only 9% of the children in the wait list group during the same time period (before starting their own treatment.) Therefore, the results show evidence that a cognitive-behavioral intervention for anxiety in children with autism is effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.

Additional Notes: The Cognitive-behavioral therapy program used was a modified version of the Building Confidence CBT program developed by Wood & McLeod. This type of treatment intervention is usually provided by child therapists who have received specific training in the use of CBT for anxiety with children and adolescents with special needs.

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2 Responses to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety in Autism

  1. Debbiea says:

    YouTube has videos showing an autistic young adult who has suffered from years of episodic self injurious behaviors…his cognition level most likely prevents him from expressing self…he’s pretty severe…but parents show that even now he’s still progressing…it seems there are some cases of autism that move so slow it takes years to see subtle improvements but at least there is always hope…I found videos while searching under autism and self injury and classic autism.

  2. Kristin says:

    How can a parent do this therapy? My daughter has been on a waiting list for a year and a half. Her anxieties are gettimg worse and worse. How do you use cbt in everyday situations like dropping your child off at School or getting her dressed when certain clothing causes severe crying?

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