Increasing Access and Reach: Implementing School-Based CBT for Anxiety in Students with ASD or Suspected ASD

Judy Reaven, Allison T. Meyer, Katherine Pickard, Richard E. Boles, Lisa Hayutin, Caitlin Middleton, Nuri M. Reyes, Susan L. Hepburn, Tanea Tanda, Aubyn Stahmer, Audrey Blakeley-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at high risk for experiencing clinical anxiety, interfering with friendships, family functioning, and school performance. Many children with ASD and anxiety have difficulty accessing appropriate mental health care and schools are often the ideal location to receive services. The implementation of evidence-based practices to manage anxiety in students with ASD in schools is just beginning. The primary purpose of the current study was to train interdisciplinary school providers to effectively deliver a 13 session evidence-based, group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program adapted for schools [Facing Your Fears–School-Based program (FYF-SB)], to students with anxiety and ASD, or suspected ASD, using a quasi-experimental design. Provider CBT knowledge, feasibility, and effectiveness of FYF-SB were examined. Twenty-five interdisciplinary school providers, from nine elementary/middle urban public schools were trained to deliver FYF-SB. Twenty-nine students (aged 8–14), with clinically significant anxietyASD, or ASD characteristics, participated. Provider CBT knowledge significantly improved following FYF-SB training. Six of 9 school teams exceeded the minimum standard for acceptable treatment adherence (80%) and 8 of the 9 participating teams delivered adequate intervention dosage for student sessions, although parent attendance was more variable. School providers indicated that FYF-SB was feasible, acceptable, and appropriate for participating students. Parents and students reported significant reductions in student anxiety following program participation. Implementation and treatment outcomes are encouraging and suggest that traditionally underserved students with ASD or ASD characteristics may be able to access much needed mental health interventions in their own communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-75
Number of pages20
JournalEvidence-Based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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