Child behavior support program trains parents to manage behavior in autistic children

Lecavalier_Image_RTFTranslational research is often considered the pinnacle of scientific research. It asks, "Does a scientific study have foreseeable implications for clinical practice?" The Nisonger Center has a established record for conducting behavioral science that is translated into practice, ensuring that the science actually touches patients.

Led by Luc Lecavalier, PhD, director of Nisonger's Child Behavior Support Program, the OSU Wexner Medical Center in 2010 was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct a study designed to assess the efficacy of a parent-training program created by Dr. Lecavalier and colleagues. It is designed for the parents of young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

The program has been employed for years at the Nisonger Center but never before formally assessed in a randomized control trial. The theory: Train the parents of children with autism to manage behavioral problems. "The whole idea is to try to identify kids as early as possible so that we can intervene as early as possible to change the course of the disorder," says Dr. Lecavalier, who is one of the most published and respected behavioral scientists in the field.

Parents learned how to identify triggers of behavior problems and how to use a variety of techniques to help decrease behavior problems. They learned which behaviors to ignore and which to change. More than 70 percent of children in the trial had positive outcomes. The 24-week, multi-center trial included 180 children and six research universities. Dr. Lecavalier served as principal investigator of the study.

Autism research is changing rapidly, as are its treatments and diagnosis criteria. The Nisonger Center is committed to sustaining its role as a leader in autism research. It is planning to pursue and conduct more randomized controlled trials to assess new treatments and trends in prevalence.