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Posted: 11/20/2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Teaching parents to use behavior management techniques, along with prescribing medication, reduces serious behavioral problems in children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), such as autism and Asperger’s disorder, according to a study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center’s Nisonger Center.

The study was conducted in conjunction with researchers at Indiana and Yale universities as part of the National Institute of Mental Health Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology Autism Network. The findings will be published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study included 124 children, ages 4 to 13 years, who had been diagnosed with PDD accompanied by irritability, tantrums, aggression, or self-injury. All participants took risperidone, a medication shown to help reduce behavioral problems sometimes associated with PDD.

While most participating children had fewer tantrums and became less irritable and aggressive while receiving the medication, the children whose parents also took part in behavior management therapy showed a significantly greater reduction in behavioral problems and were able to lower their medication dosage by 14 percent.

“One reason for trying to lessen the amount of medication is that a common side effect of risperidone is weight gain. Significant weight gain can lead to metabolic changes and related health problems,” said lead author Michael Aman, director of research at the Nisonger Center.

“Plus, benefits of added behavioral treatment increased over time. This is a strong signal that actively including parents in the treatment of their children with PDD can substantially enhance the outcomes for these youngsters, and it may improve family life in general.”

The Nisonger Center was founded in 1966 as an interdisciplinary program of Ohio State that provides assistance to people with disabilities, families, service providers and organizations to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in education, health, employment and community settings.

More than 141,000 individuals participate each year in research, educational and clinical programs at Nisonger Center that exist to help people with developmental disabilities and their families.


Eileen Scahill
Medical Center Communications