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      Psychological interventions for adults with autism spectrum disorders: a review

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          – Adults who have autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience a range of core and co-morbid characteristics which impede daily functioning and quality of life. Children and adolescents with ASD derive clinically meaningful benefits from psychological interventions, including those designed to reduce socio-communication deficits and mental health conditions. Relatively little is known about the effectiveness of these interventions for the adult ASD population. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


          – A selective search of English language, peer-reviewed publications was undertaken, in order to summarise the empirical data pertaining to psychological interventions for adults with high-functioning ASD (HF-ASD).


          – Thus far, social skills interventions, cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, and mindfulness-based approaches have been researched most extensively. Interventions have primarily sought to: reduce the impact of core ASD characteristics; enhance skills; and improve co-morbid mental health symptoms. Methodological and clinical heterogeneity render it difficult to generalise study findings across population samples, but overall, interventions appear to be associated with reductions in co-morbid symptom severity, and improved functioning.

          Research limitations/implications

          – Further studies that seek to improve functioning, reduce co-morbid characteristics, and enhance the propensity for attaining and maintaining independence are now needed.

          Practical implications

          – Adaptations to standard treatment protocols are likely required in order to enhance engagement and optimise treatment gains.


          – This is one of the first reviews to focus specifically on psychological interventions for adults with HF-ASD.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training for Young Adults with High-Functioning Autism

          Few evidence-based social interventions exist for young adults with high-functioning autism, many of whom encounter significant challenges during the transition into adulthood. The current study investigated the feasibility of an engaging Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training intervention focused on enhancing social skills, social cognition, and social functioning. Eight young adults diagnosed with high-functioning autism completed 10 sessions across 5 weeks. Significant increases on social cognitive measures of theory of mind and emotion recognition, as well as in real life social and occupational functioning were found post-training. These findings suggest that the virtual reality platform is a promising tool for improving social skills, cognition, and functioning in autism.
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            Treatment of anxiety in autism spectrum disorders using cognitive behaviour therapy: A systematic review.

            To review studies involving the treatment of anxiety in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) with the intent to inform practice and to identify areas for future research. Systematic searches of electronic databases, reference lists and journals identified nine studies. Each identified study that met pre-determined inclusion criteria was analysed and summarized in terms of: (a) participants, (b) intervention procedures, (c) dependent variables, (d) results of intervention and (e) certainty of evidence. To assess the certainty of evidence, each study's design and related methodological details were critically appraised. Positive outcomes were ubiquitous, suggesting CBT is an effective treatment for anxiety in individuals with Asperger's. However, data involving other ASD diagnostic sub-types is limited. CBT has been modified for individuals with ASD by adding intervention components typically associated with applied behaviour analysis (e.g. systematic prompting and differential reinforcement). Future research involving a component analysis could potentially elucidate the mechanisms by which CBT reduces anxiety in individuals with ASD, ultimately leading to more efficient or effective interventions.
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              Exploring the 'fractionation' of autism at the cognitive level.

              Autism spectrum disorders are defined by difficulties across a range of areas: social and communication difficulties and restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests. It has been suggested that this triad of symptoms cannot be explained by a single cause at the genetic, neural or cognitive level. This article reviews the evidence for a 'fractionable' autism triad at the cognitive level, highlighting questions for future research.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing
                29 October 2015
                29 October 2015
                : 1
                : 2
                : 79-86
                MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
                Goldsmiths University, London, United Kingdom
                MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
                © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
                Literature review
                Health & social care
                Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata


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