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Title: Anxiety and Asperger's syndrome : an investigation into the delivery of a novel real-time stress management approach
Author: Gracey, Carolyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 2715 7665
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2011
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Introduction: Anxiety and stress are everyday issues for a large proportion of individuals with AS. This population is considered particularly vulnerable both as children and as adults and research suggests that these experiences may be qualitatively different from the general population. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is considered the treatment of choice for the management of anxiety and there is extensive research discussing how it can be modified and adapted to meet the needs of individuals on the autistic spectrum. However, certain challenges remain for many attempting to work in this way (i.e. limited access, autobiographical memory difficulties, limited generalisation skills). Despite suggestions for novel and exploratory interventions for these individuals, research has rarely gone beyond conventional individual or group CBT settings in order to accommodate the characteristics of this population. Objectives: Computerised interventions offer the opportunity to capture real-life experiences on a moment to moment basis. Using momentary assessment techniques, this pilot study aimed to further explore the phenomenology of everyday anxiety and stress in adults with AS and explore the feasibility of using a hand-held computer (Personal Digital Assistant, PDA) to deliver a stress-management intervention in real-time. Method: The current study used Experience Sampling Methodology delivered via PDAs to capture everyday experiences in nine adults with AS (i.e. baseline) and to deliver directive real-time stress management techniques in situ (i.e. intervention). Results: The findings revealed high levels of anxiety in adults with AS. Anxiety was characterised by worrying, and confusing thoughts and spending time on their own, although this differed from baseline to intervention. Anxiety was not associated with internally-focused thinking, image-based thoughts, or prolonged thinking. Individuals reported improved mood, less worrying and anxious thoughts during the intervention phase. There was no significant decrease in subjective anxiety ratings from day-to-day, although there was a decrease between phases and between subjective ratings provided before and after a technique was employed. Conclusions: The results of this study support the literature suggesting that individuals with AS may differ in their experience of anxiety. Furthermore, this study provided preliminary data for the feasibility of implementing an intervention in this way. Despite the limitations of the PDA platform, findings from this study and feedback from participants provide a basis for future modifications to be made. Mobile devices (e.g., PDAs, mobile phones) offer the possibility of a more didactic intervention for anxiety within this population. High levels of anxiety and the paucity of research into treatment for adults in particular speaks to the need for more appropriate and adaptive interventions.
Supervisor: Calam, Rachel ; Hare, Dougal Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available