Cognitive therapy may treat anxiety in children with autism
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Sydney, May 7 2020 - Researchers have found that cognitive behavioural therapy and other psychosocial interventions are effective for treating anxiety in school-aged children with an autism spectrum disorder. According to the findings, published in the journal Campbell Systematic Reviews, a total of 931 children diagnosed with autism involved in 24 studies were analysed. All of the studies were based in either the US, the UK, or Australia. They spanned between 2005 to 2018. Overall, the interventions showed a statistically significant moderate to high effectiveness for treating anxiety compared with treatment-as-usual. "These are exciting results as they actually show evidence that some of the things that can be done at home or at school to reduce anxiety in school-aged children actually work," said co-author Petra Lietz from the Australian Council for Educational Research. Examined interventions ranged across clinical, school-based, or home-based settings, with a group or individual treatment formats, the researchers said. Across those settings, the first-line therapeutic intervention known as cognitive-behavioural therapy was used in 22 of the studies, while one involved Thai traditional massage and peer-mediated theatre therapy for the other. A thorough analysis of the studies showed high effectiveness for treating symptoms of anxiety by means of psychosocial interventions. "There is evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective behavioural treatment for anxiety in some children and youth with autism spectrum disorder without co-occurring intellectual disability," the authors wrote. "However, evidence for other psychoeducational interventions is more limited, not just due to the popularity of cognitive behavioural therapy but also due to the quality of the smaller number of non-cognitive behavioural therapy studies available," they added.