(HealthDay News) – A cognitive intervention to teach problem-solving skills reduces stress and depressive symptoms in mothers of children who recently have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to research published online Nov. 11 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Emily Feinberg, CPNP, ScD, of Boston University, and colleagues randomly assigned mothers of young children recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to either six sessions of problem-solving education (PSE) (59 participants) or usual care (63 participants) to assess the effect of a brief cognitive behavioral intervention on parental stress and mood.

The researchers found that, at three months, mothers in the intervention group were significantly less likely than those in the control group to have clinically important parental stress (3.8% vs. 29.3%; adjusted relative risk, 0.17). A significant reduction in mean depressive symptom scores and a non-significant reduction in clinically important depressive symptoms were observed in the intervention group compared with the control group.

“Three-month outcomes suggest the intervention’s potential to reduce clinically significant psychological distress during this critical juncture – when parents are asked to navigate a complex service system on their child’s behalf,” the authors write.

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