Read About Current and Past CARD Research Programs


Providing Group Education on Sexuality and Relationships for Adolescents with ASD and their Parents

Adults and adolescents with ASD express interest in sexuality and engage in sexual behavior (Gilmour, Schalomon, & Smith, 2012; Hellemans et al., 2007). However, adolescents with ASD engage in less social and sexual behavior, exhibit more inappropriate sexual behavior, and receive less sex education than their typically developing peers (Stokes & Kaur, 2005).
Parents report a variety of concerns regarding sexuality for their children with ASD, including concern about behavior being interpreted as sexual when not intended as such, concern that children may misunderstand conversations about sexuality, and concern about children being sexually victimized (Ballan, 2012; Nichols & Blakeley-Smith, 2010). Limited research exists on programs providing education on sexuality and relationships to adolescents with ASD or their parents. Nichols and Blakeley-Smith (2010) reported that an eight-session parent education program increased parent comfort discussing topics related to sexuality. Meister, Norlock, Honeyman, and Pierce (1994) described a parent education group designed to increase parent competence in addressing issues of sexuality with their children, but did not report on parent outcome. The present study examined the utility of a group education program designed for adolescents with ASD and their parents , focusing on outcome measures including adolescent knowledge and parent comfort discussing sexuality-related topics.


Relations among School Professionals’ Knowledge, Previous Experience, and Self-Efficacy for Working with Students with ASD

Teachers and other school professionals who work with students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) play an important role in students’ academic outcomes and goal achievement (Ruble & McGrew, 2013; Steinbrenner & Watson, 2015), but evidence suggests that teachers of students with ASD may be at high risk for experiencing burnout (Comanet al., 2013), which is associated with negative outcomes for teachers and students (Brunsting, Sreckovic, & Lane, 2014). Research has begun to focus on factors that may be protective against teacher burnout, including teacher self-efficacy, defined as “the beliefs teachers hold regarding their capability to bring about desired instructional outcomes” (Ruble, Usher, & McGrew, 2011). Teacher self-efficacy has been associated with a variety of positive teacher behaviors, such as providing more support to students and creating a more positive classroom environment (Guoet al., 2012), as well as student outcomes including motivation, self-esteem, and prosocial attitudes (Ross, 1998). Little research thus far has focused specifically on the self-efficacy of teachers working with students with ASD. Ruble, Usher, and McGrew (2011) reported that self-efficacy is negatively related to burnout for teachers of students with ASD (Ruble, Usher, & McGrew, 2011). Jennett, Harris, & Mesibov(2003) reported that a higher degree of commitment to a particular philosophy for working with students with ASD was associated with higher teacher self-efficacy. The present study investigated predictors of self-efficacy among school professionals working with students with ASD. Predictors of interest included knowledge about ASD, previous training regarding ASD and evidence-based practices, and years working with students with ASD.











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Family Routines and Restrictive and Repetitive Behaviors Among Families of Children with ASD

Interventions aimed to benefit children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often emphasize the importance of implementing structure in the home environment (Wetherby & Woods, 2006). These interventions seek to increase predictability for children, thus reducing the potential for anxiety and ensuing challenging behaviors (Vismara & Rogers, 2010). While numerous studies have cited the benefits of routine implementation, little literature has examined the relation between specific characteristics of ASD and family routine (DeGrace, 2004). Of specific interest is the presence of insistence on sameness and ritualistic behaviors, which are categories of behaviors within the broad core characteristic of restrictive interests and repetitive behaviors (RRBs). Individuals with ASD who exhibit RRBs seek to maintain rigid and highly routinized environments; however it remains unclear whether RRBs are related to family structure and routine. The examination of this relation would help to shed light on when and for whom the implementation of family routine is likely to be most beneficial. The present study sought to examine the relation between RRBs among children with ASD and the level of family routine implemented by their parents.










The Impact of a Behavior Support Intervention on Parenting Stress Among Families of Children with Autism

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) historically report higher levels of parenting stress than parents of children with other disabilities (Hayes & Watson, 2013). Challenging behaviors in children with ASD have been listed as among the largest contributors to parenting stress in this population (Estes et al., 2013; Mandell & Salzer, 2007). It has been argued that severe challenging behaviors are the leading cause of residential placement among children with ASD (Mandell & Salzer, 2007). Due to the deleterious nature of challenging behaviors, many interventions for children with ASD focus on reducing these behaviors (Hutchins & Prelock, 2014; Moes & Frea, 2002). These interventions necessarily document the reduction in challenging behavior over time, but less emphasis has been placed on examining the reduction in parenting stress that may occur when a child’s challenging behaviors subside (Zaidman-Zait et al., 2014). The present study sought to evaluate the impact of a targeted behavior support intervention program for reducing parenting stress among families of children with ASD.




Multidisciplinary Behavior Support Program for At-Risk Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The multidisciplinary behavioral support program will target families of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ages 3 to 12 years) who also display challenging behaviors and reside in the Capital District. Priority will be given to families considering placing a child outside of the home and/or families having difficulty accessing resources/services. The comprehensive evaluation and intervention program is designed to assist families in promptly responding to challenging behaviors, thereby reducing likelihood that a child will be placed outside the home due to behavioral episodes. The program will involve multidisciplinary collaboration among medical, psychological, and social work professionals to address behavior difficulties using a tri-partite approach, including: assessment/evaluation; training/intervention for families; and follow-up support. Expected results of the program include decreasing disruptive child behavior and increasing prosocial child behavior; decreasing parenting stress; improving family quality of life; and increasing capacity of families to support their child at home.



Parent Education Program for Families of Children Newly Diagnosed with Autism

The Parent Education Program is sponsored by the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in collaboration with CapitalCare Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. This program offers families of children recently diagnosed with autism specific trainings on topics in autism and provides important resources for accessing services for their child. The purpose of this program is to evaluate a group parent education program in alleviating parental stress and improving family quality of life. This intent of this program is also to minimize the time it takes parents to find and access critical resources after their child has received a diagnosis of autism.





Adaptive Behavior Deficits in Children with Autism as Predictors of Parenting Stress and Family Quality of Life

Previous research has suggested that parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience higher levels of stress than parents of typically developing children or children with other disabilities (Lecavalier, Leone, & Wiltz, 2006).  Numerous factors have been proposed as potential causes of elevated parenting stress levels in this population. Children with autism often exhibit deficits in the social, communication, and adaptive behavior domains. Currently, there is a dearth of literature examining the relative ability of specific domains of adaptive behavior deficits in children with autism to predict parenting stress.  Additionally, the contribution of child behaviors to other family variables, such as family quality of life, has yet to be explored in depth.  This study aims to discover the domain of adaptive behavior that is most predictive of high stress levels and reduced family quality of life in families of children with ASD. These findings will be used to draw conclusions about which child behaviors are the most worthwhile targets for intervention. 


Examining Change in Motivation to Modify Teacher Behavior Following Training on Evidence-Based Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The use of evidence-based practices in educating students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) promotes positive outcomes, yet such practices are often not implemented in educational settings (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2009). This research focused on educators’ motivation to change their teaching practices. Cluster analysis was used to examine motivational profiles among educators, revealing that prior to receiving training, many educators were not thinking about making changes to their teaching practices. Following training, cluster analysis revealed a different set of motivational profiles, suggesting that more educators were thinking about change. Targeting educators’ motivation to alter their teaching may be an important aspect of training in evidence-based practices.



Impact of a Student's Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder on General Education Teachers' Attitudes

The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which disclosure of a hypothetical student's diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder impacts: (1) the way in which general education teachers respond to hypothetical student behaviors, (2) teachers' attitudes about having the portrayed student in their classroom; and (3) teachers' feelings of self-efficacy.


Typically Developing Children's Attitudes Towards a Peer with Behaviors Indicative of Autism

The purpose of this study was to learn more about how young children in a typical first-grade classroom feel about peers who exhibit social behaviors indicative of autism. Children who participated in this study were randomly assigned to watch a short video of either a typical peer or a peer with autism engaged in play. The children are then asked about their attitudes about interacting with the child in the video in recreational, academic, and social settings.



Effects of a Classroom-Wide Peer Modeling Program on the Social Skills of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The program provided a general education teacher with a daily classroom-wide "buddy system" in a first-grade classroom, in which there is a student with autism. Specific social skill targets were selected for the student with autism and were taught in a classroom-wide presentation and role-play was provided by a trainer. Students in the classroom were then encouraged to practice this skill in daily "buddy time", providing the student with autism an opportunity to practice targeted social skills in rotating buddy pairings.



Evaluation of a Parent-Implemented, Behavioral Intervention for Mealtime Difficulties in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The purpose of the Mealtime Intervention Study was to evaluate whether a parent-implemented mealtime intervention was effective in decreasing disruptive mealtime behaviors and selective eating in children with autism. Parents who participated in this study received training in a mealtime routine that uses several methods designed to increase the amount and variety of foods eaten by their child.


Sibling Workshops

CARD researchers investigated the effectiveness of a frequently used support program for siblings of children with an autism spectrum disorder, Sibshops (Meyer & Vadasy, 1994). In the Sibshop program, siblings of children with autism attend monthly group meetings with other siblings including high energy games, discussion, and information. Findings indicated that these workshops may produce positive changes in the sibling relationship, such as an increased understanding of their sibling's disability and a willingness to discuss this information with others. In a follow-up study, researchers at CARD examined the inclusion of a parent component to the traditional sibling support group model. Results from this follow-up study, also found positive changes in the sibling relationship following attendance of these events, as well as increases in the siblings knowledge of autism spectrum disorders and overall decreases in family stress levels.




Positive Family Intervention Project

This project was a collaborative research effort between CARD Albany and the University at South Florida. The project was designed to evaluate two approaches to parent education, both of which have been shown to be effective in improving children's behavior. Parents who participated in this study attended eight sessions with a trained therapist and learned to deal with their children's behavior more positively and effectively. Results from both sites indicated that participating parents reported reductions in their children’s challenging behavior.

In addition, as part of the Positive Family Intervention Project, Dr. Rinaldi examined parent and therapist perceived barriers-to-treatment at the conclusion of study participation. Results indicated significant relationships between parental scores on depression items and child behavior outcomes across parent education conditions. In addition, therapist reports of stressors and obstacles to treatment were related to session attendance. Results also support the use of parent training programs targeting both child behaviors and parental perceptions to improve child behavior and family outcomes.




Dr. Christodulu has conducted research investigating behavioral interventions for sleep disturbances in children with autism spectrum disorders (Christodulu & Durand, 2004; Durand & Christodulu, 2004). Results of these investigations suggest that interventions that promote positive bedtime routines (including activities such as taking a bath and reading a story) and implement sleep restriction (reducing the number of hours the child slept while maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time) resulted in improvements in the child’s sleep patterns and overall quality of life. Specifically, the behavioral interventions used in the studies resulted in elimination of bedtime disturbances, reductions in nighttime awakenings and the time it took to put the child to bed, and improvements in the parent satisfaction with the child’s bedtime behavior.