A parent-led intervention to reduce anxiety in autistic children with a severe to profound intellectual disability: protocol for the LADDERS pilot feasibility trial

Jane Waite, Joanne Tarver, Effie Pearson, Jessica Hughes, Georgina Edwards, Megan Bird, Courtney Greenhill

Research output: Preprint or Working paperPreprint

Abstract

Background
There is a need for evidence-based approaches to reduce anxiety experienced by autistic children with severe to profound intellectual disability (ID). Avoidance of anxiety triggers, as a response to pronounced anxiety, occurs irrespective of age, background and neurodiversity. When avoidance is unhelpful, evidence-based anxiety reduction approaches aim to reduce it gradually (graded exposure), subsequently reducing anxiety. Combining graded exposure with emotional regulation techniques may be effective and acceptable for autistic children with severe to profound ID, if sensitive to needs and characteristics of autistic children. We have developed a 16-week, parent-led intervention (LADDERS) to reduce anxiety in this population of autistic children. LADDERS consists of psychoeducation, graded exposure-based tasks, and skills building, delivered utilising a person-centred approach. This study aims to assess whether LADDERS 1) reduces anxiety and 2) whether autistic children and parents find it acceptable and feasible.

Method
A single-site, multiple baseline, single case experimental study will be conducted. Participants will be parents of autistic children aged between 4-15 years. A minimum of 8 participants will be recruited through a research participant database, the Autistica Discover Network and social media. Once eligibility is confirmed, participants will be assessed at baseline, during the intervention and at a 2-month follow-up (week 24). The primary outcome measure will be a daily diary that assesses child anxiety.

Discussion
The study will provide preliminary evidence of whether LADDERS reduces anxiety in autistic children with severe to profound ID. Qualitative data from parents and child engagement will provide data on acceptability and feasibility.
Original languageEnglish
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 License.

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