Trauma and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Review, Proposed Treatment Adaptations and Future Directions

Abstract

Empirical investigations of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are lacking despite indications of increased risk for exposure to potentially traumatic events in this population. Research on the treatment of traumatic stress psychopathology in ASD is even more limited and suggests a critical need for guidance in the area of ASD-specific treatment adaptations. The current paper provides preliminary recommendations for adapting current evidenced-based, trauma-specific interventions, specifically trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), for individuals with ASD based on well-established and evidence-based practices for working with this population. These adaptations highlight the need to incorporate treatment goals related to ASD core symptoms and associated characteristics during treatment targeting traumatic stress symptoms. Future directions are discussed, including the development of instruments measuring trauma reactions in ASD, empirical investigations of modified trauma interventions for children with ASD to evaluate effectiveness, and collaboration between professionals specializing in ASD and trauma/PTSD to advance research and facilitate effective care for this community.

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Peterson, J.L., Earl, R.K., Fox, E.A. et al. Trauma and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Review, Proposed Treatment Adaptations and Future Directions. Journ Child Adol Trauma 12, 529–547 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-019-00253-5

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Autism Spectrum
  • Trauma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Trauma treatment