Importance: Autistic children experience reduced participation in life activities. One factor that may contribute to their reduced levels of participation is anxiety, which is identified at higher rates among young autistic children than among their neurotypical peers. Anxiety is also strongly associated with sensory overresponsivity and has a considerable impact on daily functioning.
Objective: To determine the feasibility, acceptability, and usefulness of a small-group, parent-mediated intervention to prevent and reduce anxiety.
Setting: University research center.
Participants: Three parents of autistic children (ages 4–7 yr).
Outcomes and Measures: Parents completed a six-session group training program. Parents completed an anxiety scale for their child before and after parent training. At the end of training, parents participated in a focus group and were interviewed 4 mo after training.
Results: Positively received aspects of the intervention were the benefits of a small group, composed of parents of autistic children, run by a facilitator with expertise in autism and anxiety. Parents gained knowledge, resulting in “taking a different approach” with their child and “seeing an interplay between anxiety and autism.” After the intervention, parents reported a reduction in children’s reported anxiety levels.
Conclusions and Relevance: Knowledge of autism and anxiety acquired during a parent-mediated group increased parents’ understanding of their child’s behaviors and assisted them in supporting their child’s participation. Further research, including larger studies, is required to determine the effectiveness of this intervention.
What This Article Adds: The findings from this research provide preliminary support for the adaptation of an existing parent intervention (Cool Little Kids) to reduce anxiety among autistic children. Parents reported an increased awareness and understanding of anxiety and of the interplay between anxiety and autistic traits.
Positionality Statement: This article uses the identity-first language autistic people. This nonableist language describes their strengths and abilities and is a conscious decision. This language is favored by autistic communities and self-advocates and has been adopted by health care professionals and researchers (Bottema-Beutel et al., 2021; Kenny et al., 2016).