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An intervention for fears and phobias in young people with autism spectrum disorders using flat screen computer-delivered virtual reality and cognitive behaviour therapy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Morag Maskey, Emerita Professor Helen McConachie, Professor Jacqueline Rodgers, Dr Victoria Grahame, Jessica Maxwell, Laura Tavernor, Professor Jeremy Parr



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Background: Specific fears and phobias are common in young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can impact greatly on daily functioning. Traditional treatment methods, such as real-life or imaginal exposure, may not be suitable for this population without adaptation and alternative interventions are needed. In previous studies, we established that delivering graded exposure through computer generated scenes in a fully immersive virtual reality environment (the Blue Room) is an effective intervention for some young people with ASD and specific fears/phobias. In this study, we explored the same intervention delivered using flat screen, computer-delivered virtual reality graded exposure with cognitive behavioural therapy. Methods: Eight young people with ASD received one psychoeducation session followed by four 20 minute sessions of flat screen, computer–delivered virtual reality graded exposure with cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions with a psychologist. Follow up measures, including Target Behaviour change ratings, were taken at 6 weeks, 6 months and 12 months after intervention. Results: Four of the participants were classed as responders to the intervention and were able to function without the fear/phobia impacting their life. These improvements were maintained 12 months post-intervention. One participant was lost to follow-up and three participants were classed as non-responders to the intervention. Conclusions: Findings show that flat screen computer-delivered virtual reality with cognitive behaviour therapy can be an effective intervention for specific fears and phobias for some young people with ASD.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Maskey M, McConachie H, Rodgers J, Grahame V, Maxwell J, Tavernor L, Parr JR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Year: 2019

Volume: 59

Pages: 58-67

Print publication date: 01/03/2019

Online publication date: 10/01/2019

Acceptance date: 10/11/2018

Date deposited: 07/02/2019

ISSN (print): 1750-9467

ISSN (electronic): 1878-0237

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.rasd.2018.11.005


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