NIH awards $3.5 million to Shaw Center for Children and Families for Research on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Author: Brittany Collins Kaufman

Mark Cummings Class 1000Mark Cummings, the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Professor of Psychology.

The National Institutes of Health awarded a new $3.5 million grant to the University of Notre Dame’s William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families in support of a project for families that include a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities. 

The project is a collaboration out of the Shaw Center between Mark Cummings, the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Professor of Psychology, and Joshua John Diehl, chief strategy officer for autism services at LOGAN Community Resources Inc. in South Bend.

The new Supporting Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Communication (ND-SPARC) project is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention program to support families that include an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Families, including parents and typically developing adolescent siblings, will receive information about communication, conflict resolution and the role family conflict plays in child and adolescent development.

The project will be conducted in South Bend and Fort Wayne, Indiana, and their surrounding areas. Researchers will recruit 150 married or cohabiting couples and their children to participate in the study. Families will work with project staff over the course of several months, and researchers will use information they provide to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. 

“We are excited to work with so many wonderful families from two communities in Northern Indiana and look forward to learning a lot from them,” Cummings said. “We’ve had great feedback and very promising results from an earlier, related study and are very optimistic that we will be able to provide an easily accessible program that families will enjoy, and that will make a significant difference in supporting families with children with developmental disabilities in the opportunities and challenges they face daily.”

“It is rare that you get a research study such as this one that will have an immediate, direct impact on the community. Moreover, it will create a sustainable program that will be available to families long after the research has been completed,” Diehl said. Families that include a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities face unique challenges and heightened stress, but they also have unique strengths that the project is designed to enhance, Diehl said.

Cummings is also part of the Notre Dame Families and Babies Study (ND-FABS) at the Shaw Center, to which the NIH awarded a $3 million grant in February. The Shaw Center brings scholars together to conduct innovative interdisciplinary research in support of healthy development across the human lifespan.

For more information and to apply for the ND-SPARC project, email NDSPARC@nd.edu or call 574-631-6009. For more information about the Shaw Center for Children and Families and research at Notre Dame, visit shaw.nd.edu.

Originally published at news.nd.edu.