Academic journal article Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies

Robot-Enhanced Cbt for Dysfunctional Emotions in Social Situations for Children with Asd

Academic journal article Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies

Robot-Enhanced Cbt for Dysfunctional Emotions in Social Situations for Children with Asd

Article excerpt


Individuals with ASD seem to be less effective in regulating their emotions (Laurent & Rubin, 2004; Rieffe et al., 2011; Samson, Huber, & Gross, 2012), and they have high rates of depression, anxiety and other internalizing problems as evidenced by several studies (Simonoff et al., 2008; Stewart, Barnard, Pearson, Hasan, & O'Brien, 2006). Children with ASD have significant difficulties in identifying and conceptualizing the thoughts and feelings of others and themselves (Attwood, 2004; Baron-Cohen, O'Riordan, Stone, Jones, & Plaisted, 1999; Heavey, Phillips, Baron-Cohen, & Rutter, 2000; Kleinman, Marciano, & Ault, 2001); abilities that affect the person's capacity to monitor and manage emotions, within themselves and others. Considering the amplified emotional responses and poor emotional control in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the use of maladaptive behaviors and less effective implementation of adaptive strategies in social situations are not surprising (Mazefsky et al., 2013).

Anxiety, depression and anger may represent a serious concern for children with ASD especially because they engage in inadequate coping strategies compared to matched peers when faced with negative events (Jahromi et al., 2012). Moreover, dysfunctional emotions correspond to clinical problems, while functional emotions are expressing the normal distress experienced when people are facing adverse situations (David et al. 2002). Ellis' cognitive theory of emotion distinguishes between functional or dysfunctional emotions based on the subjects' associated experiences and cognitions, and whether the behavioral consequences of these feelings are adaptive or not (Ellis & DiGiuseppe, 1993; Ellis, 1994). Therefore, negative emotions that follow irrational beliefs about negative events (e.g. a negative social situation) are called dysfunctional negative emotions (e.g., unhealthy anger, depressed mood), whereas emotions that follow rational beliefs about negative events are called functional negative emotions (e.g., healthy anger, sadness). (Ellis, 1994; Ellis & Harper, 1975). In this sense, the "ABC" model (Ellis, 1994) states that people experience undesirable activating events (A), about which they have either rational or irrational beliefs (B). In interaction with the activating events (A), rational and irrational beliefs (B) further lead to emotional, behavioral, and cognitive consequences (C).

1.1. Effectiveness of CBT with children with ASD

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may be well-suited for addressing core symptoms and comorbid disorders in children with ASD (Wood & Schwartzman, 2013). There are studies that show that CBT can be effectively adapted to treat emotional problems in children with ASD and significantly reduce mood disorders in individuals with ASD (Baumirger 2002; Sofrron, Attwin, Hilton, & Levin, 2007; Chalfant et al., 2007).

Sofrron, Attwin, Hilton, and Levin (2007) evaluated the effectiveness of a CBT protocol for anger management with children diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Children and parents from the intervention group participated in six therapy session. Parent reports indicated a significant decrease in the frequency of anger episodes following intervention.

Chalfant et al., (2006) investigated the impact of a family-based CBT for anxiety in 47 children with ASD and comorbid anxiety on reducing anxiety. The intervention involved 12 weekly group sessions and was compared with a waiting list condition. Following treatment, 71.4% of the treated participants no longer fulfilled diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. Comparisons between the two conditions indicated significant reductions in anxiety symptoms as measured by self-report, parent report and teacher report.

Baumirger (2002) investigated how CBT can help children with ASD to remediate their social deficits. The study was conducted at school and consisted in 13 CBT lessons (e. …

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