Category: Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders
Extant research has shown that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to display emotion regulation (ER) difficulties1, 2, 3; however, research concerning ER difficulties outside of laboratory settings and treatments targeting ER among adults have been lacking4. The current study is an initial exploration of utilizing ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of emotional functioning among a sample of young adults with ASD in the context of a pilot feasibility intervention trial for ER difficulties.
Treatment satisfaction and EMA data were collected from nine adults (18-25 years old; 7 males) with ADOS5-confirmed diagnosis of ASD and verbal IQ >806 who participated in an adaptation of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)7. EMA was delivered via text or email using the SurveySignal app8 which allowed the investigator to randomly contact the participant 2-3 times each week during the intervention. Participants completed the PANAS9 at each timepoint to report on their current affective state. At endpoint, participants were given a treatment satisfaction survey to obtain their intervention feedback.
PANAS positive affect scores averaged 29.93 (SD= 5.77) for the eight participants, and negative affect averaged 18.93 (SD= 6.39). Three participants evidenced decreases on the negative affect subscale of five or more points (one SD), while two saw minimal increase or decrease on the negative affect scale. No changes were seen beyond three points on the positive affect scale from the first half to second half of treatment. Participant feedback on the intervention suggested that shorter and more active mindfulness practices were preferred and that mindfulness-based approaches to ER difficulties were helpful.
Among young adults with ASD in a feasibility mindfulness intervention, EMA usage on emotion states was found to be feasible, and participant feedback on the intervention focused upon preferred mindfulness practices. Limitations of the study and implications for the use of EMA in studies with ASD samples will also be discussed.