Autism in some form is present in about 2% of the population. Difficulties with social interaction, adaptation to new situations and hypersensitivity to appearances, mean that people with autism are at greater risk than others for experiencing certain psychological symptoms and stress.
Lack of adaptive therapy for autism
Because therapies that work and adapt for people with autism are scarce, the need for new treatment models is great, says Johann Bank, a psychologist and researcher who recently advocated in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet.
In his doctoral thesis for him, Johan Bank has investigated the usefulness and impact of a form of treatment called ACT, Acceptance and commitment to treatmentFor the treatment of mental illness in people with autism spectrum disorders.
Group therapy with NeuroACT
ACT is a further development of the cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, and has previously shown an effect for pain, for example. The thesis evaluates an ACT-based group therapy program adapted for people with autism spectrum disorders, NeuroACT, designed by Johann Banke.
The treatment program consists of weekly group sessions of 150 minutes, for a total of 12-14 pieces. Each meeting follows a similar approach with mindfulness or acceptance of a short practice, followed by homework review, introduction to the day’s topic and finally new homework and assessment of the meeting.
Students with autism suffer from low stress
Johan Pahnke has investigated how ACT-based group therapy works for young adults with autism who attend a private school. 28 students ages 13 to 21 received ACT remedial or regular tuition.
The treatment program has proven to work well to implement in a school setting. Students who completed the program experienced, among other things, reduced stress and reduced mental illness compared to the control group, but the treatment had no effect on anxiety and some other problems.
ACT relieves some autism problems
How treatment with adaptive ACT affected adults with autism in psychiatric outpatient care was also included in the study. One study involved 10 people and the other 39. The results showed that 90 and 85 percent of participants completed the treatment, respectively. People who received the treatment saw improvements on several measures of mental health and anxiety, but for some problems, no differences were noted.
– It seems that ACT adaptive autism is able to reduce stress and mental illness in adolescents and adults with autism. Treatment also helped individuals to overcome some of the central difficulties in autism. But there is a need for further research to assess the impact in this group of patients, says Johan Benkh.
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