Improve Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.” – Rachel Barcellona
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that tends to appear during early childhood and affect the individual throughout their lifetime. It affects a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others, delays learning of language, makes eye contact or holding a conversation difficult, impairs reasoning and planning, narrows and intensifies interests, produces poor motor skills and sensory sensitivities, and is frequently associated with sleep and gastrointestinal problems. ASD is a serious disorder that impairs the individual’s ability to lead independent lives including complete an education, enter into relationships or find and hold employment. Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful in treating ASD.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) produces behavior change by focusing on changing the thoughts and emotions that precede problem behaviors, as well as by solving the problems faced by individuals that contribute to problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In DBT five core skills are practiced; mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness. Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT) is a modified form of DBT that focuses on social skills and emotional expression. It is not known whether RO-DBT would be effective in treating Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In today’s Research News article “Evaluation of radically open dialectical behaviour therapy in an adult community mental health team: effectiveness in people with autism spectrum disorders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9059310/ ) Cornwall and colleagues examined the effectiveness of RO-DBT in treating Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adults.
They found that after treatment the adults had significant improvement in global distress, including subjective well-being, problems or symptoms, social and life functioning, and risk of harm to self and others.
The findings suggest that Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT) improves the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in adults.
“I used to think, when I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism, about what I can’t do, rather than what I can do, which was a mistake in thinking” – Merrick Egber
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Cornwall PL, Simpson S, Gibbs C, Morfee V. Evaluation of radically open dialectical behaviour therapy in an adult community mental health team: effectiveness in people with autism spectrum disorders. BJPsych Bull. 2021 Jun;45(3):146-153. doi: 10.1192/bjb.2020.113. PMID: 33261708; PMCID: PMC9059310.
Aims and method
Radically open dialectical behaviour therapy (RO DBT) is a transdiagnostic treatment designed to address disorders associated with overcontrol, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD). To date, no studies have reported on the effectiveness of RO DBT for people with ASD. Forty-eight patients were referred to a RO DBT programme, of whom 23 had a diagnosis of ASD. Outcome was measured using the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation – Outcome Measure (CORE) and the Questionnaire about the Process of Recovery.
The intervention was effective, with a medium effect size of 0.53 for improvement in CORE global distress. End-point CORE global distress score was predicted from initial severity and a diagnosis of ASD. Participants with a diagnosis of ASD who completed the therapy had significantly better outcomes than completing participants without an ASD diagnosis.
These findings provide preliminary support for RO DBT as an effective intervention for ASD in routine settings.