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Telehealth delivery of cognitive-behavioral intervention to youth with autism spectrum disorder and anxiety: A pilot study
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  • Description:
    Youth with autism spectrum disorders frequently experience significant symptoms of anxiety. Empirically supported psychosocial interventions exist, yet access is limited, especially for families in rural areas. Telehealth (i.e. videoconferencing) has potential to reduce barriers to access to care; however, little is known about the feasibility or efficacy of directly intervening with youth with autism spectrum disorders through this modality. This study details the pilot testing of a telehealth version of an empirically supported intervention targeting anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders. The primary focus of this study is on feasibility, with evaluation of outcomes as a starting point for future randomized trials. In all, 33 families of youth with autism spectrum disorders and significant anxiety symptoms participated in this study (Telehealth Facing Your Fears (FYF) Intervention: n = 17; Wait-list control: n = 16). Youth of all functioning levels were included. Acceptability was strong; however, the usability of the technology was problematic for some families and impeded some sessions significantly. Fidelity of the telehealth version to the critical elements of the original, in vivo version was excellent. More work is needed to improve delivery of exposure practices and parent coaching. Preliminary efficacy analyses are promising, with improvements observed in youth anxiety over time (relative to a comparison group waiting for live intervention) and parent sense of competence (within group). Clearly, stronger designs are necessary to evaluate efficacy sufficiently; however, this study does provide support for further investigation of clinic-to-home videoconferencing as a direct intervention tool for youth with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.

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    R21 MH089291/MH/NIMH NIH HHS/United States
    R40MC15593-01-00/PHS HHS/United States
    R33 MH089291/MH/NIMH NIH HHS/United States
    90DD0699-03-00/DD/NCBDD CDC HHS/United States
    UL1 TR001082/TR/NCATS NIH HHS/United States
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