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The Therapeutic Process and Outcome during Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children with Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders


The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the therapeutic process and outcomes of cognitive behavioral therapy used to treat anxiety disorders in twenty-two elementary school-aged children (7- to 11-year-olds) who had autism spectrum disorder, by using child and parent verbalizations and behavior collected during a randomized controlled trial, and to develop a valid and reliable instrument for use in autism spectrum disorders treatment research. Transcripts of audiotaped recordings taken from child and parent discourse during treatment sessions were analyzed using mixed methods research, specifically, thematic analysis and repeated measures ANOVAs after data was collected during the original randomized controlled trial. The original randomized controlled trial, previously published, showed favorable quantitative results based upon parent-report measures, but it is possible that results may have been inflated due to the expectation of success. Child and parent discourse and behaviors across treatment sessions during the RCT study were analyzed in this dissertation using mixed methods research.

Results indicated statistically significant improvement in anxiety reduction, statistically significant improvement in social communication, statistically significant improvement in child self-concept, and statistically significant improvement in positive parental verbal interactions with their child. Thematic content analyses revealed an increase in the sense of belonging, pride, bravery, and parental encouragement by the end of therapy, week 15.

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