Modular cognitive behavioral therapy for autism-related symptoms in children: A randomized controlled trial.

Academic Article


  • Objective: To date, no one-on-one psychotherapy protocol for elementary and middle school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been found to be efficacious for treating autism-related symptoms such as failure to initiate social interactions. This study compared modular cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with enhanced standard community treatment (ESCT) in terms of impact on the severity of autism-related symptoms. Method: Children with ASD (N = 107; aged 6–13 years) were randomly assigned to a treatment condition (CBT or ESCT). Both treatments provided 32 therapy sessions. The CBT condition utilized a modular design, matching specific evidence-based treatment elements to each child's clinical needs (e.g., social-communication symptoms). The ESCT condition provided social skills training and cognitive behavioral training in a structured and linear group therapy format. The primary outcome measure was independent evaluator ratings of peer engagement during school recess using a structured and validated observation system. Parents also made session-by-session ratings on personalized autism-related symptom profiles throughout treatment. Results: CBT outperformed ESCT on the primary outcome measure (p <.001; d =.50; 95% CI [.06,.93]) and the secondary outcome measure (p =.003; d =.87; 95% CI [.45, 1.27]). Conclusions: The modular one-on-one CBT program evaluated in this study may be beneficial for reducing the severity of autism-related symptoms in some children with ASD. Further research is needed to clarify the extent of the treatment effect and the feasibility of implementation for therapists in the community. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wood JJ; Sze Wood K; Chuen Cho A; Rosenau KA; Cornejo Guevara M; Galán C; Bazzano A; Zeldin AS; Hellemann G
  • Start Page

  • 110
  • End Page

  • 125
  • Volume

  • 89
  • Issue

  • 2