Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Anxiety Disorders in Autism: Adapting Treatment for Adolescents

Overview

Comorbid anxiety disorders affect as many as 80% of youth with autism spectrum disorders, causing substantial distress and impairment over and above the autism spectrum diagnosis alone. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold standard treatment among typically developing youth with an anxiety disorder and when adapted, shows promise in children with ASD and comorbid anxiety. However, there is currently no psychotherapy protocol tailored to meet the unique needs of young adolescents with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and comorbid anxiety. Given this, the present study seeks to develop and test a new CBT therapy in adolescents with autism and comorbid anxiety.

Full Title of Study: “CBT for Anxiety Disorders in Autism: Adapting Treatment for Adolescents”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: April 2014

Detailed Description

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect approximately 1 out of 150 children and adolescents in the United States, making them one of the most common neurobiological conditions. Comorbid anxiety disorders affect as many as 80% of youth with ASD, causing substantial distress and impairment over and above that caused by an ASD diagnosis alone. While cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been established as the gold standard treatment for anxiety disorders among typically developing youth, a protocol does not exist for early adolescents with ASD and comorbid anxiety disorders. Accordingly, we are proposing to develop a CBT protocol for anxiety and comorbid ASD in early adolescence.

Initial protocol development efforts will focus on adapting relevant treatment elements from an effective CBT program for younger children with ASD and comorbid anxiety to the characteristics and clinical needs of early adolescents. Thereafter, protocol and measure development will be refined during Phases I and II of this study through our experiences treating a total of 20 young adolescents (ages 11-14 years – 10 will be treated at USF; 10 at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)) with ASD and comorbid anxiety disorder(s). The CBT protocol will then be examined in a trial comparing CBT to a waitlist condition (N = 32 total; 16 at each study site).

The two recruitment sites for this study are the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of South Florida. The University of Miami will assist with quality assurance checks. Considering the rising number of youth diagnosed with ASD, and the lack of tested treatment options for those young adolescents with comorbid anxiety, our proposed work toward an efficacious CBT protocol will provide a timely contribution to public health efforts.

Interventions

  • Behavioral: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
    • The form of treatment will involve 16 weekly meetings of about 90 minutes each. Sessions involve both the child and parent and involve teaching youth how to cope with their anxiety through a variety of behavioral techniques.
  • Behavioral: Wait-list
    • A wait-list essentially involves not receiving treatment for a specified period of time (in this case 16 weeks). No active treatment is provided; rather, the family ‘waits’.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
    • The form of treatment will involve 16 weekly meetings of about 90 minutes each. Sessions involve both the child and parent and involve teaching youth how to cope with their anxiety through a variety of behavioral techniques.
  • Placebo Comparator: Wait-list
    • A wait-list essentially involves not receiving treatment for a specified period of time (in this case 16 weeks). No active treatment is provided; rather, the family ‘waits’.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale.
    • Time Frame: Post-treatment, which is an average of 16 weeks after Baseline
    • The Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale is a clinician-rated scale assessing anxiety symptoms and the associated severity and impairment in children over the past week. The scale includes 5 items which are summed to form a total score, which represents anxiety severity. The scale score ranges from 0 to 25 with higher scores indicating more severe anxiety symptoms.

Secondary Measures

  • Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule: Child and Parent Versions
    • Time Frame: Post-treatment, which was an average of 16 weeks after Baseline
    • The Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule: Child and Parent Versions are clinician-rated scales assessing anxiety symptoms and the associated severity and impairment in children over the past month. The clinician interviewer interviews the child and parent separately about the nature and severity of the child’s anxiety. If a child meets criteria for an anxiety disorder, a single item is rated by the interviewer, which represents anxiety severity. The scale score for this single item ranges from 0 to 8 with higher scores indicating more severe anxiety symptoms.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Outpatient adolescents with ASD (see below) between the ages 11-14 years.
  • Meets criteria for a diagnosis of autism, Asperger syndrome (AS), or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified .
  • Meets criteria for a diagnosis of one of the following anxiety disorders: separation anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Child has a Full Scale and Verbal Comprehension IQ≥85.

Exclusion Criteria

  • Receiving concurrent psychotherapy, social skills training, or behavioral interventions (e.g., applied behavior analysis). Families will have the option of discontinuing such services to enroll in the study.
  • Has started an antidepressant within 12 weeks before study enrollment or an antipsychotic 6 weeks before study enrollment.
  • Has changed established psychotropic medications (e.g., antidepressants, anxioloytics) within 8 weeks before study enrollment (6 weeks for antipsychotic).
  • Is currently suicidal or has been actively suicidal in the last 6 months.
  • Has been diagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorders; or Substance abuse in past 6 months.
  • Presence of a significant and/or unstable medical illness which might lead to hospitalization during the study.

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 11 Years

Maximum Age: 14 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of South Florida
  • Collaborator
    • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Eric Storch, Professor – University of South Florida
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Eric Storch, PhD, Principal Investigator, University of South Florida

Clinical trials entries are delivered from the US National Institutes of Health and are not reviewed separately by this site. Please see the identifier information above for retrieving further details from the government database.

At TrialBulletin.com, we keep tabs on over 200,000 clinical trials in the US and abroad, using medical data supplied directly by the US National Institutes of Health. Please see the About and Contact page for details.