Recommendation ID

What is the comparative clinical and cost effectiveness of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions for anxiety disorders in autistic children and young people?

Any explanatory notes
(if applicable)

Early trials of CBT for anxiety in autistic children and young people have been promising but have methodological shortcomings. Furthermore, the common pharmacological approaches have not been evaluated in this population.

A parallel-arm RCT should compare pharmacological and psychosocial interventions with placebo in autistic children and young people and an anxiety disorder. Pharmacological treatment should be with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and dosing should follow research in typically developing children but with the option of evaluating outcomes at lower doses. The SSRI should be blinded with an identical placebo and an 'attention' or other psychosocial control group. The psychosocial intervention should be manualised and based on cognitive behavioural approaches shown to be effective in previous trials. The sample should cover the full age and intellectual range of children and young people and the size powered to deliver precise effect size estimates for both active arms.

Primary outcome measures should be reduction in anxiety symptoms by parent report. Secondary outcomes may include self- and teacher-report, blinded measures such as heart rate and skin conductance, patient satisfaction, changes in adaptive function, quality of life and disruptive behaviour. Adverse effects should be evaluated and an economic evaluation included.

Source guidance details

Comes from guidance
Autism spectrum disorder in under 19s: support and management
Date issued
August 2013

Other details

Is this a recommendation for the use of a technology only in the context of research? No  
Is it a recommendation that suggests collection of data or the establishment of a register?   No  
Last Reviewed 30/06/2021