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Autistic children and their parents learn side-by-side in a unique classroom, then apply those lessons in the home

– Intense one-on-one therapy sessions delivered over six-week period –

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (March 28, 2013) - Preschoolers with autism are learning new patterns of behavior alongside of their parents or caregivers in an innovative new program administered by The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. Those lessons learned in the special classroom are then taken home and applied in real life. Unique as well, the program addresses various medical issues associated with autism.

Jump Start 4 Autism Program

Lucy Dones, RN, a nurse in the New Brunswick public schools, works with Eric Brennan, 3, of Somerset, at the Saint Peter’s Jump Start 4 Autism Program in Edison.

Called the Jump Start 4 Autism Program, the two-day-a-week six-week course places children and their caregivers in an applied behavioral analysis program designed specifically for each child. Administered at the Lakeview School in Edison, children with the developmental disability receive behavioral treatments in controlled one-on-one sessions with therapists as their parents or caregivers obtain guidance in the modification of their child’s actions while seated in a nearby group session.

The program focuses on newly diagnosed autistic children with medical problems or concerns.

A lifelong neurological condition, autism affects one in every 49 children in New Jersey. Last year the Centers for Disease Control released the results of a study that showed an alarming increase in the number of New Jersey children diagnosed with autism. The study, which tracked autism in 14 states, showed that the rate of autism in New Jersey had doubled in six years, placing New Jersey second only to Utah in the rate of children who are diagnosed with the developmental disorder.

Barbie Zimmerman-Bier, M.D., director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s, said, “The program is designed to educate the children based on the principles of applied behavioral analysis and at the same time educate parents about these techniques.”

“Children with autism do not generalize skills well, so it’s important that teachers, caregivers and parents are all working using the same principles, enabling their children to learn to generalize their skills across different environments,” Zimmerman-Bier said. “Put more simply, if these kids are doing the same kinds of things in lots of different places they will learn it faster, so the home is essential as a teaching site.”

Those in-home goals are achieved by addressing some of the following objectives for children and caregivers:

  • How to define “antecedents, behaviors and consequences,” known as the ABCs
  • Effectively reinforcing behaviors during teaching
  • Making behavior stick
  • Successful teaching: planning and preparation
  • What skill areas are the most important to address
  • How to develop a written teaching plan
  • Underlying conditions
  • Verbal and non-verbal cues
  • The difference between errors and non-compliance

The Jump Start 4 Autism Program is funded by grants from Merck & Co. and Focus Autism.

About Saint Peter's Healthcare System
Saint Peter's Healthcare System Inc., parent company of the Saint Peter's healthcare delivery system, is comprised of Saint Peter's University Hospital, a 478-bed acute-care teaching hospital; Saint Peter's Foundation, the fundraising arm of the hospital; and Saint Peter's Health and Management Services Corporation, which oversees the system's outpatient facilities. These include the CARES Surgicenter; New Brunswick Cardiac Cath Lab; Community Care Services, Inc.; the Margaret McLaughlin McCarrick Care Center, Inc., a residential skilled nursing facility in Somerset; and Saint Peter's Adult Day Center in Monroe Township. Saint Peter's Healthcare System is sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen. For more information about Saint Peter's Healthcare System, please visit or call 732-745-8600.


Philip Hartman
Director of Public Relations
Saint Peter's Healthcare System
New Brunswick, N.J.