Study Comparing Approaches of Two School-Based Interventions to Manage Anxiety in Autistic Students

Principal Investigator: Judy Reaven, PhD

Funds awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute 
A research team at University of Colorado School of Medicine, JFK Partners, led by Judy Reaven, Ph.D. has been approved for a $2,780,297 million funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study A Comparison of Two School-Based Interventions to Manage Anxiety in Autistic Students.   
The research team’s work with community partners has clearly indicated that school providers and families recognize the significant anxiety that many autistic students experience. Unfortunately, autistic youth and their families have much difficulty accessing mental health care in the community.  Schools may be the best place to equitably manage the mental health symptoms of autistic youth. Two school-based curriculums may hold great promise in decreasing anxiety symptoms and managing emotion regulation: School-Based Facing Your Fears and Zones of Regulation. This study will compare each approach on a variety of measures and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of each approach so that school administrators, providers and families can make informed decisions about program selection. Two advisory boards, one comprised of autistic high school students and the other, comprised of autistic adults, caregivers, school administrators and providers, will inform all aspects of the project.  

Dr. Reaven’s study was selected through a PCORI funding announcement specifically focused on comparative clinical effectiveness research focused on interventions targeting mental health in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There are 7 million to 8 million people in the U.S. with such disabilities, and an estimated 37 percent to 55 percent have a co-occurring mental health condition – a prevalence that is estimated to be up to 65 percent among adolescents with these conditions. 
“This study was selected for PCORI funding for its potential to answer the need for real-world evidence to address knowledge gaps about mental health treatment in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with University of Colorado School of Medicine, JFK Partners to share the results.”   
Dr. Reaven’s award has been approved and began work in April 2023. 
PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit    

JFK Partners (SOM)

CU Anschutz

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13121 East 17th Avenue

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Aurora, CO 80045


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