March 21, 2007

New workbook builds on parent-child relationships

Case's social work professor focuses on autism and development delays


Every minute a parent has with their child can be a teachable moment.

Gerald Mahoney from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (MSASS) at Case Western Reserve University and James D. McDonald, a retired Ohio State University communication science professor, have turned that theory into a new practical workbook for parents and professionals called, Autism and Developmental Delays in Young Children, published by Pro-Ed.

The workbook focuses on techniques and strategies that parents, with children between the ages of birth to five years old, can do to enhance their children's thinking, language and social skills.

Based on more than 20 years of U.S. Department of Education-supported research in Mahoney's parent-child clinic at MSASS and elsewhere, the professor developed and tested a new relationship-based, early childhood intervention called "Responsive Teaching" (RT).

RT was designed for the parent or caregiver, who spend significant amount of time with a child, to maximize the child's developmental potential and social emotional well-being by enhancing the effectiveness of their routine interactions.

"We've evaluated this intervention with children with autism and other developmental disorders. For those families that adopted the strategies, this curriculum has been remarkably effective particularly when it helped parents learn to interact more responsively with their children," said Mahoney.

"After 12 months of this developmental intervention, on average, these children showed a 60% increase in their rate of cognitive development, a 125% increase in their expressive language development and a 150% increase in their receptive language growth," he reported.

For parents of the one in 150 children born with autism or the one in 800 born with Down's Syndrome as well as the many other children with developmental delays, RT offers a more naturalistic way of integrating child development intervention into the routines of normal family life, according to Mahoney.

Differing from many current interventions that focus on teaching developmental skills to children, the RT philosophy is that parents incorporate one or two of the 66 RT strategies each week into routine interactions with their child such as while playing, dressing, feeding or talking to their children.

"We want to increase the efficiency of the parent-child relationship by making each moment a more meaningful experience for their child," said Mahoney.

Along with the user-friendly workbook, the authors also created a CD-ROM that professionals can use to develop individualized family plans. Parents can also use it to design their own child development plans and track the progress of their children.

Mahoney also conducts workshops at MSASS as well as at other community organizations where he teaches parents and professionals how to use the workbook or CD-ROM. Several communities, such as Grand Rapids, Mich.; Edmonton, Alberta in Canada; and Connecticut have adopted this relationship-based intervention for use in their early intervention programs for children with developmental risks and disabilities.

The workbook and CD-ROM can be purchased through Pro-Ed by calling 1-800-897-3202 or visiting

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, March 21, 2007 06:47 PM | News Topics: Authors, HeadlinesMain, Healthcare, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Provost Initiatives

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