Young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) frequently experience high levels of anxiety. Despite this, many clinical settings do not provide specialist ASD mental health services and demand for professional support frequently outstrips supply. Across many sectors of health, investigators have explored digital health solutions to mitigate demand and extend the reach of professional practice beyond traditional clinical settings.
This critical appraisal and pilot feasibility study examined Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback as an approach to help people with ASD manage anxiety symptoms, outside of formal settings. The aim was to assess interventions whilst highlighting risks and benefits with this population.
Following critical review of relevant literature, a group of 20 young people with a diagnosis of ASD (16 males: 4 females; 13-24 years) were recruited to explore the use of portable biofeedback devices, which have been reported to help regulate breathing and heart rate.
Adoption and acceptability, assessed via remote monitoring and direct interview, indicated that most participants found the devices acceptable and useful. Levels of anxiety, assessed via pre-post questionnaires, were significantly reduced in children (p = .04) and in young adults (p = .006). These initial findings are discussed within a context of the strengths and challenges for remotely delivering a biofeedback intervention for people with ASD.
Heart rate variability biofeedback devices have shown promise in this pilot study. There is now a need for larger evaluation of biofeedback to determine which delivery methods achieve the greatest effect for people with ASD.
- Remote Intervention