Effects of cognitive-behavioural therapy on anxiety for children with high-functioning autistic spectrum disorders

Singapore Med J. 2008 Mar;49(3):215-20.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome