Project Bridge

Developmental Intervention for Young Children with Autism

The Center on Interventions for Children and Families under the direction of Gerald Mahoney, PhD, recently received a three-year, $780,000 research grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development.

In this randomized control study, a new developmental intervention called Responsive Teaching will be evaluated with children with autism who are under three years of age. Designed to be used by parents and other caregivers, Responsive Teaching was created to enhance children’s development and social emotional functioning.

This project is currently recruiting parents of young children with Autism from throughout Northeastern Ohio to teach them how to use the program in their everyday lives.

“This intervention differs from some of the more commonly used interventions for children with autism,” says Mahoney. This intervention emphasizes increasing children’s involvement in daily routines rather than in direct instruction or rote learning activities.”

Previous research has shown that Responsive Teaching has great promise with a wide range of children, including children autism.

In a 2005 publication, Mahoney and his co-investigator, Frida Perales, a research associate at the social work school, reported that a sample of 20 children with autism who received this intervention for 12 months made impressive improvements in some key skills affected by autism. Among those skills are their ability to communicate, interact with adults and children and regulate their emotions and behaviors. However, results from this study are inconclusive due to the small numbers of children who participated and the lack of adequate control groups.

This new study is using a more rigorous research design to evaluate the effectiveness of Responsive Teaching. Sixty children with autism who are under three years of age will be randomly assigned to either a group that receives individual parent-child Responsive Teaching sessions or a group that receives Responsive Teaching in parent groups.

All participants will receive the same basic information. However the parent group will have the added advantage of learning and sharing this information with other parents of children with autism; while the individual treatment group will have the advantage of being coached in the use of Responsive Teaching. Participation in this project does not prevent children or their parents from receiving other intervention services.

Mahoney and Perales, the study’s project coordinator, are currently recruiting parents and children who are under three years of age who have either been diagnosed or are suspected of having autism or a related disorder. Parents who would like more information can contact the coordinator of this project, Dr. Frida Perales at 216-368-1824.

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