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Evaluating response to group CBT in young children with autism spectrum disorder

  • Deanna Swain (a1), Haley G. Murphy (a1), Tyler A. Hassenfeldt (a1), Jill Lorenzi (a1) and Angela Scarpa (a1)...
Abstract

Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit difficulties with negative affect. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been successfully adapted for individuals with ASD to treat these difficulties. In a wait-list control study, for example, group analyses showed promising results for young children with ASD using a developmentally adapted group CBT approach. This report examined response to group CBT in terms of individual-level change in young children with ASD. Eighteen children with ASD, aged 5–7 years, and their respective parents participated in treatment. Parents completed pre- and post-treatment measures of negative affect and related behaviours. Treatment responders and non-responders were grouped based on significant treatment outcomes as assessed by statistically significant change for lability/negativity and 20% decrease in intensity, duration or frequency of emotional outbursts. Results indicated that 67% of children met criteria as a treatment responder, showing meaningful improvement in at least two outcome measures. No significant group differences emerged for initial characteristics before treatment. Wilcoxon signed rank tests determined pre-/post-treatment change in parental confidence for each treatment responder group. Results indicated statistically significant increase for the treatment responder group in parent-reported confidence in their own ability and in their child's ability to manage the child's anger and anxiety, but these results were not significant for the treatment non-responder group. Results provide additional evidence that CBT can significantly decrease expressions of anger/anxiety in children with ASD as young as 5 years, yet also suggest need for further improvement.

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Corresponding author
Correspondence to Angela Scarpa, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Psychology, Blacksburg, VA, USA (email: ascarpa@vt.edu).
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*

Tyler Hassenfeldt and Jill Lorenzi are currently affiliated with Duke University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Durham, NC, USA.

§

Angela Scarpa is also affiliated to Virginia Tech Autism Clinic and Center for Autism Research.

Footnotes
References
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Evaluating response to group CBT in young children with autism spectrum disorder

  • Deanna Swain (a1), Haley G. Murphy (a1), Tyler A. Hassenfeldt (a1), Jill Lorenzi (a1) and Angela Scarpa (a1)...
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