Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Carol MacKinnon-Lewis, PhD

Co-Major Professor

Eric A. Storch, PhD

Committee Member

Alison Salloum, PhD, LCSW


acceptability, autism, childhood anxiety, parental perceptions, treatment interventions


Despite the high prevalence of co-occurring anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), little is known about parental preferences for treatment in addressing these anxiety concerns. Understanding parents’ preferences for treatment is an important factor to consider for ensuring quality care, as it can guide clinical decisions with regard to implementation of care, strategies for optimizing engagement and treatment adherence, and is associated with treatment outcome. To date, limited studies have examined parental preferences in treatment for childhood anxiety or ASD; but no study has investigated preferences for treatment in children with comorbid symptoms. Thus, the present study sought to address this gap in the literature by investigating treatment perceptions and preferences among an adult sample of parents who have children with ASD and comorbid anxiety. A sample of 46 parents completed a single-time point, online survey. Parents were presented with the descriptions of four treatments commonly utilized by families of children with anxiety and ASD: applied behavior analysis, cognitive-behavioral therapy, medications, and alternative interventions. Parents were then asked to rate each treatment type in terms of perceived acceptability, effectiveness, and their willingness to use. Forced-choice items on most and least preferred treatments to use for their child were also administered. Basic demographic information, child treatment history and satisfaction, and clinical severity were collected. Results showed that parents generally perceived all four treatment types as acceptable, effective, and were willing to use any for their child’s anxiety concerns. A majority of parents ranked medication as the most preferred treatment for their child, followed by CBT, alternative interventions and ABA. Parental perceptions across treatment types did not differ based on child gender, race/ethnicity or parent education; differences based on age were only observed for ABA. No associations were found between parent perception ratings and anxiety or ASD severity. Differences in parent perceptions across treatment types based on child treatment history showed mixed results. Overall, findings suggest that parents consider all four treatment types as generally favorable options for addressing anxiety in their child with ASD. Future studies with larger representative samples are encouraged to further investigate parent perspectives on treatment, with particular focus on the factors that drive preferences and the decisions of care.

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Psychology Commons