Programs exist to help autistic children and to help schools serve autistic children well. A new effort by University at Albany researchers will now focus on families of autistic children.
“Behavioral problems are some of the most stressful challenges that parents and families of autistic children face,” says Kristin Christodulu, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the UAlbany. A state-wide task force report confirmed that family support was one of the greatest needs in New York.
Christodulu is developing family-driven interventions that, while put in place by social workers or psychologist, can be sustained by the family once the expert leaves. Her work is supported by a grant from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
The day-in, day-out interactions with kids who need consistency and understanding can increase stress levels within a home and decrease the quality of life for other family members.
Christodulu’s research will target “high-risk” families — “with a child at risk for placement outside the home” — and will include a in-home evaluation, a designed family intervention plan, and a follow-up evaluation. Each segment involves about nine hours of work by an experienced provider.
Measures will include parenting stress and parent satisfaction. “It really contributes to the field because no one else has done it,” she says.
The new work fits perfectly with Christodulu’s vision for the Center, which she helped launched when she joined the UAlbany faculty in 2002. “In addition to consulting with schools and helping families, the Center looks for best practices,” she says. “How can you take university science and put it into practice?”