Exploring the concurrent use of standardised and idiographic measures to assess cognitive behavioural therapy in a university student with Autistic Spectrum Condition – A single case experimental design

Nicola Birdsey, Linda Walz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Limited research has directly addressed the challenges of Higher Education for students with Autism, who face additional difficulties in navigating social, personal and academic obstacles. With increasingly more students experiencing mental health difficulties whilst at University, therapeutic interventions on offer need to be suitable for those accessing support. Cognitive behavioural therapy is widely used to support University students, as it is firmly established as an effective treatment for a range of issues, including social and generalised anxiety in typically developing populations (NICE, 2013, 2019). However, the efficacy of CBT for individuals with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) is less well known, despite the high prevalence rates of anxiety in this population. This paper seeks to address a gap in the literature and uses a single-case (A-B) experimental design over 16 sessions to reduce comorbid social and generalised anxiety in a University student with high-functioning ASC. Clark’s (2001) cognitive model of social anxiety and Wells’ (1997) cognitive model of generalised anxiety were employed to formulate anxiety experienced in this case. Standardised outcome measures were used for social anxiety, i.e. the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) and generalised anxiety, i.e. the Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) were used in conjunction with idiographic ratings to assess the impact of therapy. Findings indicate that CBT was an acceptable and useful intervention with mixed results; discrepancies were found between clinical change recorded on standardised measures compared with idiographic ratings. This paper discusses the use of standardised measures of anxiety for individuals with ASC and identifies directions for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalThe Cognitive Behaviour Therapist
Publication statusAcceptance date - 17 May 2021


  • CBT
  • ASC
  • Comorbid
  • Social anxiety
  • Generalised anxiety
  • Higher Education

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