NIHR Research for Social Care Programme - Autism Highlight Notice

In September 2021, the programme launched a highlight notice calling for researchers to particularly seek to answer questions raised by the JLA PSP in Autism.

Adapted suicide safety plans to address self harm, suicidal ideation and suicide behaviours in autistic adults: an interventional single arm feasibility trial and external pilot randomised controlled trial

Addressing priority 1: NIHR research in progress

This study will examine how acceptable and usable adapted Safety Plans (SPs) are for autistic adults who have a history of self-harm and/or suicidal thoughts and behaviours. The findings will also help to determine the important features to be included in a future study to assess how helpful SPs are. 

Behavioural interventions to treat anxiety in adults with autism and moderate to severe intellectual disabilities (BEAMS ID) 

Addressing priorities 1 and 4: NIHR research in progress

There are good therapies for anxiety, but these have not been tried with autistic adults with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. In order to meet the needs of autistic adults with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, these therapies need to change. The aims of this project are to (a) work with autistic adults, carers and family members, and professionals to adapt an existing therapy for anxiety disorders that was developed for autistic adults without intellectual disabilities, and (b) complete a study to try out the therapy and seek feedback from participants and their families. The team will also collect information about what sort of therapy people are currently getting, along with testing out some good ways to measure anxiety. 

A multicentre double-blind placebo-controlled randomised trial of SerTRaline for AnxieTy in adults with Autism (STRATA)

Addressing priorities 1 and 4: NIHR research in progress

This study aims to find out whether the drug Sertraline is an effective treatment for anxiety in adults with a diagnosis of autism. Sertraline is a commonly prescribed antidepressant and is also recommended for the treatment of anxiety problems. The use of Sertraline will be compared with the use of a placebo, a non-active identical capsule. Anxiety is common in autistic adults and can be more disabling than the core features of autism. Medications for anxiety are often prescribed for autistic adults but their effectiveness or side effects in this population are not well known. The trial is to be run in five centres in England and Western Australia.

REACH-ASD Trial: A Randomised Controlled Trial of Psychoeducation and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy for Parents of Children recently diagnosed with ASD

Addressing priority 6: NIHR research in progress

There are high levels of mental health difficulties in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The period following their child's diagnosis can be particularly challenging. Groups that educate parents about ASD are often used in the NHS but have not been evaluated and we do not know if they help parents' mental health. An intervention called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been used with parents of children with disabilities with some evidence of success. It uses problem solving, mindfulness, and practical exercises to help people reflect on their current situation and manage any distressing experiences and thoughts. The EMPOWER-ASD programme combines education about autism with ACT.  This research aims to find out if EMPOWER-ASD benefits parents and their families when delivered as part of NHS care, using a randomised controlled trial. 

Managing Repetitive Behaviours: Clinical and cost effectiveness trial of a parent group intervention to manage restricted and repetitive behaviours in young children with ASD

Addressing priority 6: NIHR research completed

Challenging restricted repetitive behaviours (RRB) such as repetitive movements, routines, restricted interests, and resistance to change can interfere with an autistic child's ability to engage in everyday living activities, reduce social opportunities and prevent learning new skills. Parents report they need strategies and advice on how to manage their child's challenging RRB. This study will assess the effectiveness of a Managing Repetitive Behaviours intervention.

Intensive behavioural interventions for young children with autism: A systematic review and cost-effectiveness analysis

Addressing priority 24: NIHR research completed

Autism is a complex life-long condition that impacts on development in different areas including intellectual, communication, social, emotional, and adaptive skills for daily living. The proportion of children diagnosed with autism has increased considerably over the last two decades, and it now affects approximately 3 in 200 children born in the UK. This study aims to find out whether or not intensive early interventions based on applied behaviour analysis (ABA) can help young children with autism, and whether it represents good value for money.

Why are autistic people more vulnerable?

Addressing priority 1: Autistica-funded research

Treating anorexia in autistic women

Addressing priority 1: Autistica-funded research

Understanding suicide in autism

Addressing priority 1: Autistica-funded research

Anxiety and depression in autistic people who speak few or no words

Addressing priority 1: Autistica-funded research

Language and Communication Skills

Addressing priority 2: A call for research proposals around this topic was issued by Autistica in November 2017, which resulted in the PECS at home to help with communication skills project

A personalised anxiety treatment for autistic adults

Addressing priority 4: Autistica-funded research

Coping with uncertainty

Addressing priority 4: Autistica-funded research

Sensory reactivity and anxiety

Addressing priorities 4 and 9: Autistica-funded research

Incredible Years for autism

Addressing priorities 1, 4, 5 and 6: Autistica-funded research

A family toolkit for everyday life with autism

Addressing priorities 1, 4, 5 and 6: Autistica-funded research