Internet-Based Psychoeducational Intervention for Youths with ASD

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
A. Backman1,2, A. Mellblom2, E. Norman-Claesson2, G. Keith-Bodros2, S. Bolte3 and T. Hirvikoski2,4, (1)Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet (KIND), Stockholm, Sweden, (2)Habilitation & Health, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm, Sweden, (3)Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND), Center for Psychiatry Research, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (4)Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
Background: The recommended support for youths with ASD include interventions to facilitate coping with life challenges and improving social skills, as well as treatment of psychiatric comorbidity, by using e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy. The number of intervention trials with satisfactory quality is low, especially regarding transitioning youths with ASD. Psychoeducation has been recommended as a first-line post diagnostic intervention. Only a couple of previous studies have described psychoeducational interventions for individuals with ASD. However, these studies have shown preliminary promising results in teaching the participants about ASD. Internet-delivered treatment options for youths with ASD have scarcely been developed and evaluated. This may be considered surprising, considering the possible reservations among youths with ASD to participate in traditional interventions from health care organisations, as well as the group´s good capacity and willingness to utilize computer-mediated communication.

Objectives: The objective of the open feasibility study was to evaluate feasibility, treatment credibility and satisfaction, as well as preliminary efficacy of an internet-based psychoeducational intervention named SCOPE (Spectrum COmputerized PsychoEducation), for youths with autism spectrum disorder (ASD without intellectual disability), in an outpatient clinical context of disability services in Sweden.

Methods: The internet-based psychoeducational intervention, consisting of eight ASD themed modules, was developed in cooperation with youths with ASD. The internet-based delivery was chosen to utilize the interactive pedagogical potential of the Swedish national platform for internet-delivered treatment. The intervention includes weekly contact with an experienced clinician via a message-function. The youths (16 – 25 years of age; n=28) completed self-rating scales measuring knowledge about ASD, mental well-being, as well as acceptance of their diagnosis and quality of life.

Results: Treatment feasibility was good in the clinical context: 79% of the participants completed at least 6 out of 8 modules in the program. Treatment credibility was good and increased from pre- to post-treatment. Participants’ knowledge about ASD increased significantly from pre- to post-treatment, and the increase in knowledge was not associated with negative effects on psychological well-being. The three-month follow-up showed that the participants had retained their knowledge, and also had improved acceptance of diagnosis.

Conclusions: Internet-delivered psychoeducation is a promising, new treatment method for youths with ASD. An ongoing randomized controlled study will generate further evidence concerning the SCOPE intervention.