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06-09-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2020

Child Psychiatry & Human Development 2/2020

A Pilot Study of Family-Based Exposure-Focused Treatment for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Anxiety

Child Psychiatry & Human Development > Uitgave 2/2020
Eric A. Storch, Sophie C. Schneider, Alessandro S. De Nadai, Robert R. Selles, Nicole M. McBride, Stacey C. Grebe, Katherine C. Bergez, Ana Ramirez, Andres G. Viana, Adam B. Lewin
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Anxiety is a common and impairing condition in youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Evidence supports the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety in this population; however, available treatment protocols may be difficult to implement outside of research settings. The present study examined the efficacy of family-based exposure-focused treatment (FET) compared to a treatment as usual (TAU) control in 32 youth aged 6–17 years with ASD and co-occurring anxiety. Fourteen youth were randomized to FET, which included 12 face-to-face weekly therapy sessions lasing 45–55 min, while 18 youth completed the TAU control where engagement in psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy was at the discretion of the families. Results strongly supported FET with a 79% (versus 0% in TAU) response rate, 86% (versus 0% in TAU) remission in primary anxiety diagnosis, and large between-group effects on clinician-rated anxiety severity and most parent-rated domains of anxiety-related impairment. Among treatment responders, 2-month follow-up supported maintenance of gains. Overall, the study supported FET as a relatively brief intervention for the treatment of anxiety in youth with ASD, although further research is needed to replicate these findings and compare FET outcomes to more comprehensive interventions.

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