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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Eases Anxiety in ASD

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on February 21, 2013


Background: Research demonstrates that about half of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also experience clinically significant anxiety, and that ASD symptoms are often worse when they do. Preliminary studies using cognitive behavior therapy have shown promising results for treating anxiety in ASD individuals


What’s New: In the February 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers demonstrated that an adapted form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) —an goal-oriented intervention divided into modules for children and parents—was more effective than treatment as usual (TAU) at decreasing symptoms of anxiety in children with ASD in a randomized, controlled trial. The scientists recruited 45 children between the ages of 7 and 11 and divided them into two treatment arms, some receiving CBT and others continuing with the management plan they had taken beforehand. After 16 weeks, 75 percent of participants in the CBT arm responded to treatment, as opposed to 14 percent in the TAU arm.


Why it’s important: Because certain symptoms are common to both ASD and anxiety—namely social avoidance and repetitive responses—CBT could prove an effective treatment for both ASD and anxiety.

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