URMC research to help families of children with autism or special needs

After 24 weeks, the URMC study reports that disruptive behaviors were cut in half for most of the children in the study. The Salamone family took part in that study. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - In the largest clinical trial ever for children with autism, the University of Rochester Medical Center is hoping to reach children through their parents.

The study, which wrapped up last year, equips parents by helping them understand how to handle their child's behavior.

It’s a tool which Penfield mother Danielle Salamone found useful.

Danielle and her husband have three young girls, two of whom have special needs.

Her oldest daughter, four-year-old Maddie, has a developmental disability.

“She was a late walker and a late talker,” Salamone said.

Maddie also had a hard time dealing with change.

“So going from one activity to the other, she would throw a tantrum, she would lie down on the floor, kick and scream, she would kick us,” said Salamone.

The Salamones thought those five-minute temper tantrums were just a sign of Maddie experiencing those "terrible twos."

As it turns out, Maddie was diagnosed with 15Q overgrown syndrome. She has a developmental delay and will be in the 98 percentile for her height and weight her entire life.

The Salamones then learned about a URMC study designed for parents of children with autism or with special needs.

“We were trying to see if we could help parents take charge of the situation at home and really get a better handle on the disruptive behavior,” said Dr. Tristram Smith, Professor of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at URMC.

Dr. Smith spearheaded the study that looked at 180 children across several states. Parents attended 11 class-like sessions.

“They learned first some ways to first structure the home to establish routine in the home where the behaviors were less likely to happen in the first place, putting a schedule in place and having some visual information to help the child know what schedule there was,” said Dr. Smith.

Having a schedule has paid off for the Salamones.

“She did very well. I can see that she appreciated the schedule, that it made a difference for her to know what was coming next. They've seen a difference at school,” said Salamone.

Maddie’s tantrums have gone from 10 to 15 a day to just one tantrum, or not at all.

After 24 weeks, Dr. Smith reports that disruptive behaviors were cut in half for most of the children in the study.

The hope now, is to offer the program to everyone.

“I can only imagine how wonderful this is going to be for people that have developmentally disabled children,"said Salamone. “This made such a difference in my life, I'm sure it can help many other people.”

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