Introduction: Children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) often exhibit one or more comorbid disorders, including anxiety, disruptive behaviour, mental retardation, and depression. Various studies have documented the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in treating children with anxiety. Although studies have indicated a high prevalence of anxiety in individuals with ASD, there is a lack of systematic studies substantiating the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural interventions among children with high-functioning autism.
Methods: This pilot study investigated the effects of a 16-session CBT programme on six high-functioning children diagnosed with ASD (mean age 11.50 years, standard deviation 0.84 years). These children were diagnosed with ASD or Asperger's syndrome by the DSM-IV criteria. Measures on levels of child's anxiety, parental and teacher stress were administered at pre- and post-treatment.
Results: Children showed lower levels of anxiety at post-treatment. Parents and teachers also reported lower levels of stress following the CBT programme.
Conclusion: Findings from the present study provided some evidence of the effects of CBT for high-functioning autistic children in reducing anxiety, parental and teacher stress. Interpretation of the findings, recommendations for future research and implications of the present study are presented.