Anxiety disorders are common in children with autism and are associated with more difficulties in getting on with other people. The characteristics of autism can make conventional treatments difficult but several studies have suggested that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) might be helpful. A study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at the effectiveness of the Building Confidence* CBT programme, modified for use with children with autism. They studied 36 children between the ages of seven and eleven, half of whom were treated with CBT and half of whom went onto a waiting list. After 16 sessions of CBT both groups were assessed by independent experts none of whom knew whether the participants had used CBT or not. 78.5% of the children receiving CBT were judged to have improved compared to only 8.7% on the waiting list. Those parents whose children had had CBT were more likely to say they had improved although the children themselves felt no different. The improvements observed by the independent evaluators were still there three months after the treatment had finished.
Wood, Jeffrey J. ... [et al] - Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders: a randomized, controlled trial Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry March 2009, 50(3), 224-234
*The lead author of the study was also the author of the Building Confidence programme