Modifying manualized CBT to treat anxiety for students with ASD in the school setting
Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly re-occurring comorbid diagnoses of children with autism, affecting approximately as many as 84% of children with ASD (Chalfant, Rapee, & Carroll, 2006) as opposed to 13% of children without autism (van Steensel et al., 2011). Little intervention research has been conducted with a specific focus on anxiety symptomatology for children with ASD in a school setting. A growing body of research indicates that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an efficacious approach for the treatment of anxiety disorders in typically developing children, as well as with children with ASD (Wood et al., 2009). While there are obvious advantages to delivering CBT in a school setting and the use of CBT in schools has been researched, there is little research on the use of CBT for students with ASD in a school setting. The proposed research will aim to examine the urgent need of addressing bidirectional anxiety and ASD symptoms through the use of CBT for middle childhood students (ages 713) within the school setting. A manualized CBT program will be administered to students with an ASD diagnosis with elevated anxiety symptomatology. Modifications to the manualized program derived from previous research (Attwood, 2004; Keehn, 2012) will be made to address specific characteristics of the ASD population, such as using concrete language, using visual materials, and integrating the students’ specific interests. There will be a focus on the behavior aspects of the CBT because of known problems with cognitive inflexibility and executive functioning in the ASD population. The proposed project will likely improve our knowledge regarding valid interventions to address the anxiety symptomatology of students with ASD. If the aims of this project are achieved, the intervention will contribute to subsequent research and clinical practices addressing the needs of children with ASD.