Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism Awarded Department of Defense Research Grants

Grants to support two studies focused on sleep techniques, behavioral interventions 

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The United States Department of Defense has awarded a Cleveland Clinic Children’s researcher two, four-year grants to support innovative clinical trials for young children with autism spectrum disorder.

Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D., director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, is principal investigator of both studies.

The first study, a four-year, $1 million grant directed by Johnson, will evaluate the efficacy of two parent-focused programs – the Sleep Parent Training program (SPT) and the Parent Educational Program (PEP) – both delivered via the Cleveland Clinic Express Care Online app.

The Sleep Parent Training program is modeled after a behavior parent-training program developed by Johnson. Through this randomized trial, parents are provided practical tools and suggestions for improving the child’s bedtime routine, such as self-soothing techniques. The Parent Educational Program provides useful information about the child’s diagnosis and information about accessing services for the child.

The sleep study will involve 90 patients with autism spectrum disorder between the ages 2 and 7 who have a significant sleep disturbance.

Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D.

“Both programs will be offered through the Cleveland Clinic Express Care telehealth platform over the span of five sessions, which allows us to reach more families and gives more scheduling flexibility,” said Johnson. “With this approach, we’ll be able to coach the parents at a time that is convenient for them, such as at dinnertime or right before the bedtime routine.”

This research will build upon a previous NIH-funded pilot study, led by Johnson at the University Of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, that observed favorable sleep outcomes with the behavior parent-training program.

In addition to the sleep study, the Department of Defense also has awarded Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, and four collaborating  institutions nationwide, a four-year, $7 million grant to study the comparative effectiveness of early intensive behavior intervention (EIBI) with less intensive, time-limited, applied behavior analysis (ABA) for  young children affected by autism spectrum disorder.  Key child and parent outcomes will be compared at three time points during the 24 weeks of intervention, at follow-up and at 5 years of age.

The data coordinating center for this study is the University Of Rochester School Of Medicine. Johnson and her team at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism will collaborate with co-investigators at May Institute (Randolph, Mass.), Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus, Ohio), and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Nashville, Tenn.).

The study plans to recruit a total of 130 children, between the ages of 2 to 5, across the collaborative network, of which 33 will be enrolled at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism provides a range of services for children and their families, including diagnostic evaluation, outpatient therapeutic services, a specialized educational program, outreach and consultation services, and the Lerner School for Autism, which serves 100 children and young adults through age 21.

About Cleveland Clinic Children’s
Cleveland Clinic Children’s is a part of the Cleveland Clinic health system and offers full medical, surgical and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents. Cleveland Clinic Children’s supports 126 acute care beds at Cleveland Clinic's main campus and 389 pediatric beds system wide; in addition, pediatric services are available at more than 40 sites across Northeast Ohio. A staff of more than 300 full-time pediatricians and sub-specialists see 750,000 pediatric visits each year and provide hospital care for 13,000 children per year. Cleveland Clinic Children’s is a non-profit, multi-specialty academic medical center integrating clinical care, research and education. Cleveland Clinic Children’s consistently ranks among the “Best Children’s Hospitals” by U.S.News & World Report. Visit us online at and on Facebook at

About Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 66,000 employees are more than 4,200 salaried physicians and researchers and 16,600 nurses, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic’s health system includes a 165-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 11 regional hospitals in northeast Ohio, more than 180 northern Ohio outpatient locations – including 18 full-service family health centers and three health and wellness centers – and locations in southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nev.; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2018, there were 7.9 million total outpatient visits, 238,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 220,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. Visit us at Follow us at and News and resources available at