Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Individuals with Aspergers

Anxiety-related symptoms are frequent concerns in children, adolescents and adults with Aspergers and HFA, which may be treatable with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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Anxiety is commonly found in high functioning individuals on the spectrum in particular because they have an increased awareness of their own social difficulties. This cognitive awareness may intensify their anxiety toward social interaction and promote isolation.

Recent numbers found that 11-84% of children on the autism spectrum experience impairing anxiety, while only 4.7% of all children aged 3-17 years have experienced anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps individuals recognize how thoughts and feelings influence behavior and cope with these challenges.

CBT is used to treat a wide range of issues, in addition to anxiety, including:

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • sleep disorders
  • sexual disorders
  • depression
  • bipolar disorders
  • phobias
  • eating disorders
  • substance use disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia

One goal of CBT treatment is to identify and change thought patterns that have adverse influence on behavior. For people with Aspergers and HFA, concerning thoughts about social relationships may prevent them from engaging in behavioral experiences that would lead to confidence, or even mastery of social skills.

CBT is a popular therapeutic intervention because it is usually short in duration and more affordable in the long run.

Just a small sample of clinical studies have studied the efficacy of CBT in individuals with autism-related disorders. However, the results of these studies have been very encouraging to date.

It is known that combination therapy (psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, for instance) usually works better than single-therapy approach in the treatment of many disorders. But, it is encouraging to know that single-standing therapeutic interventions are also effective on their own merit.

By A Patricia Del Angel, M.D., Clinical Director, Autism Community Network

Sources

Preliminary Efficacy of a Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program for Anxious Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Susan W. White, Thomas Ollendick, Lawrence Scahill, Donald Oswald, and Anne Marie Albano.  J Autism Dev Disord. Jun 30, 2009 :  Published online Jun 30, 2009.

Development of a Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention Program to Treat Anxiety and Social Deficits in Teens with High-Functioning Autism. Susan W. White, Anne Marie Albano, Cynthia R. Johnson, Connie Kasari, Thomas Ollendick, Ami Klin, Donald Oswald, and Lawrence Scahill.  Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. Mar 2010; 13(1): 77–90.

CDC/MMWR, Supplement /Vol.62/No. 2. May 17, 2013

Treating anxiety disorders in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders: a controlled trial. Chalfant, AM1, Rapee R, Carroll LJ Autism Dev Disord.2007 Nov;37(10):1842-57. Epub 2006 Dec 15.

Mayo Clinic. 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

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Providing the weekly Medical Blogs are the team of professionals, doctors, occupational and behavioral therapists at San Antonio’s premiere Autism Diagnostic Clinic, the Autism Community Network. Contributors include: Executive Director Dr. Loree Primeau Medical Director Dr. A Patricia Del Angel Training and Research Director Dr. Berenice de la Cruz Carrie Alvarado, OTR, PhD©, DIR/Floortime-Certified Lupe Castaneda, MS, BCBA Adriana Sanchez, MA, BCBA Dr. Gayla Aguilar, OTR, OTD, C-SIPT Megan Kunze, MA, BCBA The ACN teams works to maximize the potential of children with autism through their administrative, clinic, training and development departments. Their expertise on Aspergers Syndrome is offered to you through aspergers101.com.

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