Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Brief Summary

Official Title: “Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders”

Autism spectrum disorders affect as many as 1 out of 150 children and are related to significant impairment in social, adaptive, and school functioning. Co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety, are common and may cause substantial distress and impairment beyond that caused by the autism diagnosis. Although effective interventions have been developed for typically developing youth with anxiety disorders, this approach needs to be adapted for children with autism. Accordingly, we are proposing a randomized controlled trial to examine the effectiveness of CBT relative to treatment as usual (TAU) in 46 youth ages 7-11 with autism spectrum disorders and comorbid anxiety disorder(s).

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design: Allocation: Randomized, Endpoint Classification: Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Single Blind (Outcomes Assessor), Primary Purpose: Treatment
  • Study Primary Completion Date: December 2012

Detailed Clinical Trial Description

Autism spectrum disorders affect as many as 1 out of 150 children (Centers for Disease Control, 2007), with many higher-functioning children not being diagnosed until elementary school or later (Fombonne, 2003). Significant impairment in social, adaptive, and school functioning is prevalent and longstanding (Howlin et al., 2004). In addition, comorbid psychological disorders are common in the ASD population (Simonoff et al., 2008), and may cause substantial distress and impairment beyond that caused by the ASD diagnosis. Comorbid anxiety disorders, in particular, affect as many as 80% of children and adolescents with ASD (Bellini, 2004; de Bruin et al., 2007; Klin et al., 2005; Muris et al., 1998). Although efficacious interventions have been developed for otherwise typically developing youth with anxiety disorders, the linguistic; cognitive; and social characteristics of ASD may render standard treatment approaches less effective for children with ASD (Volkmar & Klin, 2000). Thus, there is a clinical need for the modification of existing treatment modalities for this unique group. To date, few studies have experimentally tested the efficacy of CBT for youth with a comorbid presentation of anxiety and ASD. This gap in the literature is of particular concern given the prevalence of comorbid anxiety among children, consequences of untreated anxiety, unknown efficacy of antidepressant medication for anxiety in ASD, and potential safety and tolerability issues related to medication use. Accordingly, we are proposing a randomized controlled trial to examine the efficacy of CBT relative to treatment as usual (TAU) in 46 youth ages 7-11 with ASD and comorbid anxiety disorder(s). In the proposed grant, we will: (1) examine the acute efficacy of CBT relative to TAU, and (2) evaluate the short-term maintenance of treatment gains. Forty-six children (ages 7-11 years) with ASD and comorbid anxiety disorder(s) will be randomly assigned to one of the two treatment conditions. Primary outcomes will be assessed by an independent evaluator, and will include change in anxiety symptom severity; response rates; and remission rates. Considering the rising number of children diagnosed with ASD, our proposed work toward the advent of an efficacious CBT protocol will provide a timely contribution to public health efforts.

Interventions Used in this Clinical Trial

  • Behavioral: Cognitive-behavioral therapy
    • Therapists will work with families for 16 weekly sessions implementing the Behavioral Interventions for Anxiety in Children with Autism (BIACA) CBT program, which is a modified version of a family CBT treatment manual for typically developing children with anxiety disorders. The BIACA intervention program is flexible in nature and employs a modular format. Despite the added flexibility of the modular format, a minimum of three sessions are spent on basic coping skills and eight are spent on in vivo exposure to ensure an adequate and comparable dose of the core elements of CBT for anxiety across cases.
  • Behavioral: Treatment as Usual
    • Participants randomized to this arm will be instructed to continue receiving their prior interventions as recommended by their providers (e.g., psychotherapy, social skills training, behavioral interventions, family participation in family therapy or a parenting class, or pharmacological interventions). Treatment changes (e.g., medication increase, starting psychotherapy in the community) are not prohibited and will be monitored. Thus, treatment will continue as it would in standard practice; and will be monitored through periodic study assessment.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts in this Clinical Trial

  • Experimental: Cognitive-behavioral therapy
    • Therapists will work with families for 16 weekly sessions implementing the Behavioral Interventions for Anxiety in Children with Autism (BIACA) CBT program, which is a modified version of a family CBT treatment manual for typically developing children with anxiety disorders. The BIACA intervention program is flexible in nature and employs a modular format. Despite the added flexibility of the modular format, a minimum of three sessions are spent on basic coping skills and eight are spent on in vivo exposure to ensure an adequate and comparable dose of the core elements of CBT for anxiety across cases.
  • Active Comparator: Treatment as Usual
    • Participants randomized to this arm will be instructed to continue receiving their prior interventions as recommended by their providers (e.g., psychotherapy, social skills training, behavioral interventions, family participation in family therapy or a parenting class, or pharmacological interventions). Treatment changes (e.g., medication increase, starting psychotherapy in the community) are not prohibited and will be monitored. Thus, treatment will continue as it would in standard practice; and will be monitored through periodic study assessment.

Outcome Measures for this Clinical Trial

Primary Measures

  • Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale (Measures the Severity of Anxiety Symptoms)
    • Time Frame: After an average of 16 weeks (Post-treatment)
      Safety Issue?: No

Secondary Measures

  • Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule Highest Anxiety Clincian Severity Rating (Measures the Severity of the Child’s Anxiety Symptoms)
    • Time Frame: After an average of 16 weeks (Post-treatment)
      Safety Issue?: No
  • Clinical Global Impression – Severity Scale (This Scale Measures the Severity of the Child’s Anxiety Symptoms).
    • Time Frame: After an average of 16 weeks (Post-treatment)
      Safety Issue?: No

Criteria for Participation in this Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

1. Outpatient children with an autism spectrum disorder (see #2 below) between the ages 7-11years.

2. Meets criteria for a diagnosis of autism, Asperger syndrome (AS), or PDD-NOS using scores from the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

3. Meets DSM-IV 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) as determined by the ADIS-IV-C/P (with CSR 4) and all available information.

4. Minimum score of 14 on the PARS Severity Scale; this score indicates clinically significant anxiety symptom severity (RUPP, 2002) and has been used in recent major clinical trials (e.g., Walkup et al., 2008).

5. Child has a Full Scale and Verbal Comprehension IQ > 70 as assessed on a commonly used IQ test.

6. Subjects with co-morbid depression, ADHD, tic disorder or disruptive behavior disorders will be acceptable as long as the anxiety disorder is primary (i.e., most impairing/distressing).

Exclusion Criteria

1. 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. Those randomized to TAU will be able to continue or initiate psychosocial interventions (psychotherapy, social skills training, applied behavior analysis, or family therapy) whereas those randomized to CBT will not receive these interventions concurrent with CBT.

2. New Treatments: Initiation of an antidepressant within 12 weeks before study enrollment or an antipsychotic 8 weeks before study enrollment. No new alternative medications, nutritionals or therapeutic diets within 8 weeks of study enrollment.

3. Established Treatment changes: Any change in established psychotropic medication (e.g., antidepressants, anxioloytics) within 8 weeks before study enrollment, or any change in alternative medications that might have behavioral effects within 6 weeks prior to the study baseline assessment. Those randomized to TAU may make medication changes following randomization, including starting a medication; those randomized to CBT will remain stable on medications during the study.

4. (a) Current clinically significant suicidality or (b) individuals who have engaged in suicidal behaviors within 6 months will be excluded and referred for appropriate clinical intervention.

5. Lifetime DSM-IV bipolar, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorders; or Substance abuse in past 6 months.

6. Unwillingness of parents to make the commitment to accompany their child for multiple study visits.

7. Presence of a significant and/or unstable medical illness which might lead to hospitalization during the study.

Gender Eligibility for this Clinical Trial: Both

Minimum Age for this Clinical Trial: 7 Years

Maximum Age for this Clinical Trial: 11 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted for this Clinical Trial: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Clinical Trial Investigator Information

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of South Florida
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Eric A Storch, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of South Florida

Source

Clinical Trials content is provided directly by the US National Institutes of Health via ClinicalTrials.gov and is not reviewed separately by ClinicalTrialsFeeds.org. Every page of information about a specific clinical trial contains a unique identifier which can be used to find further details directly from the National Institutes of Health.

The URL of this page is:
http://clinicaltrialsfeeds.org/clinical-trials/show/NCT01178385