Background and objectives: In the clinical setting, a large proportion of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience impairing anxiety symptoms. Recently, an applied videogame called Mindlight has been developed that focuses on decreasing anxiety in children. The present study involved a randomized controlled trial (RCT) investigating the effect of Mindlight on (sub)clinical anxiety symptoms in children with an ASD. Methods: In total, 109 children of 8–16 years old with an ASD and (sub)clinical anxiety symptoms were randomly assigned to the experimental (N = 53) or the control (N = 56) condition. Children in the experimental condition played Mindlight, children in the control condition played a commercial game (Triple Town) for 1 h per week, for six consecutive weeks. All children and parents completed assessments at baseline, post-intervention and 3-months follow-up. Results: Results showed no differences in decrease of child-rated anxiety symptoms between both conditions. However, the decrease of parent-rated anxiety symptoms was significantly larger in the experimental condition. Limitations: Mechanisms of change associated with treatment outcomes were not investigated in the present study. Therefore, it remains unclear which specific or non-specific factors contributed to the decrease in anxiety symptoms in both conditions. Conclusions: The present study provided some preliminary evidence that video games are a promising new intervention vehicle for children with an ASD and anxiety, at least according to parents. However, further research on working mechanisms is needed, in order to specify to what extent and for which children with ASD Mindlight could be an effective anxiety treatment.

Anxiety symptoms, Autism spectrum disorders, Children, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Video game,
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry: a journal of experimental psychopathology
Erasmus University College (EUC)

Wijnhoven, L.A.M.W. (Lieke A.M.W.), Creemers, D.H.M. (Daan H.M.), Vermulst, A.A, Lindauer, R.J. L, Otten, R, Engels, R.C.M.E, & Granic, I. (Isabela). (2020). Effects of the video game ‘Mindlight’ on anxiety of children with an autism spectrum disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry: a journal of experimental psychopathology, 68. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2020.101548