A Pilot Trial of SPACE (Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions) in Autism

Shir Rozenblat*, Yaara Shimshoni, Eli R. Lebowitz, Michal Perez, Judah Koller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Family accommodation describes changes parents make to their behavior, intended to alleviate their child’s distress, which stems from a psychopathology. In anxiety, studies show that accommodation alleviates distress in the short term but is associated with increased symptom severity, greater functional impairment, poorer treatment outcomes, increased caregiver burden and disruption to family functioning longitudinally. Research shows high prevalence of family accommodation of anxiety in autism. While the most common treatments for anxiety in autism are cognitive-behavior therapy and pharmacology, research is limited and other approaches must be considered. Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) is a parent-based, manualized treatment for anxiety targeting family accommodation, which has been found to be acceptable and efficacious in treating childhood anxiety. This pilot trial examined the feasibility, acceptability, treatment-satisfaction, and preliminary efficacy of SPACE for anxiety in autism. Parents of 15 autistic children (ages 6–10 years) with at least average cognitive abilities exhibiting high levels of anxiety participated in 13 weekly sessions of SPACE. Feasibility and acceptability were assessed through enrollment, attrition rates, and adverse events. Of 26 eligible families, 22 (84.62%) elected to participate, 15 of whom (68.18%) completed treatment. Parents rated the treatment as highly satisfactory. Anxiety symptom severity and family accommodation were significantly reduced following treatment, with 86.66% of participants showing reliable change post-treatment, and this reduction was preserved at 2-month follow-up. This study provides preliminary evidence that SPACE is feasible, acceptable, satisfactory, and produces improvement in anxiety in the autistic population.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Early online date23 Jun 2023
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Family accommodation
  • Parent-based treatment

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