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Keywords:

  • Asperger syndrome;
  • anxiety;
  • CBT;
  • parent involvement

Background:  The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief CBT intervention for anxiety with children diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS). A second interest was to evaluate whether more intensive parent involvement would increase the child's ability to manage anxiety outside of the clinic setting.

Methods:  Seventy-one children aged ten to twelve years were recruited to participate in the anxiety programme. All children were diagnosed with AS and the presence of anxiety symptoms was accepted on parent report via brief interview. Children were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: intervention for child only, intervention for child and parent, wait-list control.

Results:  The two intervention groups demonstrated significant decreases in parent-reported anxiety symptoms at follow-up and a significant increase in the child's ability to generate positive strategies in an anxiety-provoking situation. There were a number of significant differences between the two interventions to suggest parent involvement as beneficial.

Conclusions:  The sample of children with AS in this study presented with a profile of anxiety similar to a sample of clinically diagnosed anxious children. The intervention was endorsed by parents as a useful programme for children diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and exhibiting anxiety symptoms, and active parent involvement enhanced the usefulness of the programme. Limitations of the study and future research are discussed.