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Can Mindfulness-Based Therapy Reduce Executive Impairment in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)?

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
A. A. Spek1 and N. van Ham2, (1)Mental Health Institution Eindhoven, Eindhoven, Netherlands, (2)GGZ Eindhoven, Eindhoven, Netherlands

Executive functioning describes a set of processes involved in complex, goal directed actions. Impairment in executive functioning is one of the core deficits in autism. In adults with autism specifically, executive function deficits have been predominantly reported in the areas of cognitive flexibility, planning and working memory. Treatment opportunities for executive problems in adults with ASD are limited and lack scientific proof. Mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) is a relatively new form of treatment that has been proven effective in reducing executive impairment in various disorder groups. MBT has been examined in adults with ASD and results showed a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety (Spek, in press).

Objectives:  To conduct a preliminary trial in order to examine whether MBT may be effective in reducing executive impairment in adults with ASD. 

Methods:  9 adults with ASD and full scale IQ > 85, received 9 weekly MBT sessions. Diagnoses of the participants were based on the ADI-R and an interview based on DSM-IV criteria of ASD. Executive functioning was examined before and after the intervention, using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Disfunction (BRIEF).

Results:  Data were analyzed and a significant reduction of impairment was found in inhibition, shifting, emotional control, initiate, working memory, planning/organizing and organization of materials. No changes were found for self-monitoring and task monitoring. In October 2012, results of a third measurement (four months after the intervention) will be added. 

Conclusions:  The results seem to indicate that MBT may be helpful for adults with ASD in reducing executive impairment. We advice further research, incorporating a larger number of participants and a control group.

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