Nisonger Center Garners National Recognition

The Nisonger Center at OSU, one of 60 federally-designated University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, is a nationally recognized leader in its field. Established in 1966, it is named for Herschel W. Nisonger, whose philosophy and devotion to mental health, mental retardation and human dignity helped shape its mission and direction. The Center, under the direction of Steven Reiss, PhD, focuses on improving policy and practice for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

In the 2002 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, Closing the Gap: A National
Blueprint to Improve the Health of Persons with Mental Retardation, Nisonger’s Ohio Rural Developmental and Behavioral Clinic was cited as a model program. Partnering with the Ohio Department of Health, Nisonger specialists in developmental-behavioral pediatrics, public health nursing, family and child development, psychology, occupational and physical therapies and communication/language therapy, conduct developmental clinics in six Appalachian counties.

This mobile team diagnoses and develops treatment regimens for rural children who may not have access to this level of care. “If the kids can’t come to the care, take the care to the kids,” says Nisonger Medical Director Ronald Lindsay, MD, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics.

The Center’s Research Unit in Psychopharmacology investigates autism and related disorders. Michael Aman, PhD, professor of psychology and psychiatry, recently led a study on the effects of the drug risperidone in autism published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The research found that risperidone is effective for the treatment of tantrums, aggression and self-injurious behavior exhibited by some autistic children. “These findings can lead to significant changes in therapy around the country,” says Center Director of Clinical Services Ed Sterling, DDS, associate professor of pediatric dentistry.

The Nisonger Center also offers an array of other services for people living with developmental disabilities. Programs in leadership education in neuro-developmental disabilities and early childhood education provide training for medical students and others.

“Providing cost-effective programs to benefit families and children is our continuing goal,” says Center director Reiss.

Article originally appeared in the Ohio State University Medical Center newsletter.