An evaluation of the effectiveness of the zones of regulation cognitive behavioural intervention on emotional regulation outcomes for school aged children with autism spectrum disorders in Ireland.
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Background and Aims: Emotional regulation is a transactional process between an individual, their environment and involves controlled or automatic strategies executed in response to stimuli which trigger emotions (Gross & Thompson, 2007). Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an evidenced-based therapeutic intervention which addresses behavioural expressions of problems and the underlying cognitions. Adapted CBT interventions can be used to address emotional regulation challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (Weiss et al., 2018) despite being an area of limited appraisal. This research evaluates the effectiveness of “The Zones of Regulation”. Sample: Participants included a non-random sample of 12 primary school children (9-12 years) with a diagnosis of ASD, their guardians and teachers from three ASD classes in Ireland. Method: The intervention was delivered within a school environment over 12 weeks using a quasi-experimental waitlist control design. Parent-, child- and teacher-reported measures were administered at baseline, postintervention, and at post-waitlist/follow-up. Results: Results suggest initial but mixed evidence for The Zones of Regulation on improving emotional regulation outcomes for children diagnosed with ASD. No interaction effects or significant difference between groups were found although a significant effect of time was found. The Waitlist group scores improved significantly on teacher-reported measures directly following their intervention. While not the target group, results offer preliminary evidence for the intervention as the effect size was found to be large. The CBT group scores indicated a decline in lability/negativity as reported by parents following intervention and at follow-up. While results did not reach significance, the CBT group indicated an increase in coping skills and a decrease in dysregulation following intervention and at follow-up as reported by children. Social validity outcomes indicate that the intervention has high feasibility amongst teachers. Conclusion: This research provides empirical data on the use of CBT-based interventions, can assist Educational Psychologist’s in selecting and evaluating interventions for children with ASD, and provides information regarding the feasibility, implementation and lasting outcomes of such interventions within an Irish school context. Further research is required in order to provide more consistent and reliable statistical evaluations of the intervention.
KeywordsCognitive behavioural therapy
School aged children