Programs focus on treating severe behavior in people with autism spectrum disorder and on pediatric feeding disorders

Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH), a RWJBarnabas Health facility, has launched two new programs in Somerset under the direction of Rutgers faculty members. The CSH RUCARES Severe Behavior Program is a collaborative effort between the Rutgers University Center for Autism Research, Education and Services (RUCARES) at the Brain Health Institute and is directed by Wayne Fisher, director of RUCARES and the Henry Rutgers Endowed Professor of Pediatrics at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The Pediatric Feeding Disorders Intensive Program, directed by Cathleen C. Piazza, professor, department of applied psychology, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, is an expansion of the hospital’s Pediatric Feeding Disorders program and serves infants, children and adolescents with moderate to severe feeding problems who have not made progress in traditional outpatient feeding therapy.

Together, CSH RUCARES and RUCARES are the first centers of their kind in New Jersey dedicated to innovative research, education, and services. CSH RUCARES focuses on diagnosing, treating, and supporting children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). RUCARES addresses people with ASD of all ages, including adults. The collaboration provides the opportunity to partner on care and research for those with ASD with significantly challenging behaviors throughout their lifespan.

The Severe Behavior Program, a service line of CSH RUCARES, provides intensive and highly specialized services to children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities who display dangerous behavior such as aggression, self-injury, property destruction, and pica that pose a significant risk to self, others, or the environment and who cannot be safely managed or effectively treated in a less-intensive program. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for children with severe behavior disorders and their families and offers services including evaluation, outpatient, half-day, and full-treatment programs as well as parent training.

“The goal-oriented and scientifically supported approaches used in these expanded services are designed to increase positive outcomes for the most complex cases,” said Fisher. “Our exceptional clinical team is dedicated to helping children maximize their potential while giving support and education to families to provide a full continuum of care.”

The Pediatric Feeding Disorders Intensive Program uses a scientific, data-based approach to assess and treat children with feeding disorders. It identifies the factors that contribute to or cause the child’s feeding problem and helps the child become an age- or developmentally typical feeder.

“We provide cutting-edge assessment and treatment based on the latest scientific research,” said Piazza. “This approach is highly successful, and children enrolled in programs like this meet 90 percent of their treatment goals.”