Nisonger received grants to coordinate two employment programs: Transition Options in Postsecondary Settings for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TOPS), funded by the US Department of Education, and Vocational Rehabilitation Private Public Partnership (VRP3), funded by the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission. These programs provide age-appropriate settings for students to gain the skills they need to work in competitive employment. The five-year TOPS project provides services for approximately 100 students with intellectual disabilities at Ohio State, University of Toledo and Xavier University.

Nisonger Center partnered with Ohio State’s Nursing Patient Education, the Wexner Medical Center’s Burn Center and Autism Speaks to produce the “Safe Signals” educational video that promotes fire and burn safety in the home to young adults with autism.

The Ohio State University Office of Outreach and Engagement awarded one of four 2012 Engagement Impact Grants to Shakespeare and Autism: Intervention in the Columbus Community. This research project is a collaboration between Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) actress Kelly Hunter, Columbus Public Schools, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Autism Treatment Network, Ohio State Dept. of Theatre and the Nisonger Center.

Nisonger Center, the University of Cincinnati UCEDD at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the Ohio Department of Health received a three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund Improving the Health of People with Disabilities Through State-Based Public Health Programs. This is the first time Ohio is among the states awarded this grant to develop and strengthen health-related disability programs.

CARF International accredited the Nisonger Center’s TOPS program.

Ohio State’s IDD Psychology graduate program at Nisonger is the first such program in the country to be designated by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards/National Register Designation Committee.


The Center pioneered the hiring of parent-faculty members to assist in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) training grant.

Nisonger Center was one of 20 sites for the Children’s SSI 2000 Project. This was a joint effort of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) to assess the effects of using interdisciplinary assessments for children with low intellectual functioning who would otherwise not be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under current SSA procedures.

Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) was founded in 2002 as a community-based literacy activity for adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities. There are now NCBC programs in more than 100 cities across North America and Europe.

Nisonger’s IDD Dental Program, Central Ohio’s largest provider of dental services for people with developmental disabilities, is recognized nationally as a model for best practices. The program provides clinical training for all dental students, dental hygiene students, pediatric dental residents and general practice residents at Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital; it is the only program of its kind in the country.

Ohio’s STEM Ability Alliance (OSAA) was established to increase the number of students with disabilities who earn university degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is funded by a National Science Foundation grant awarded to an alliance of Ohio institutions led by Wright State University, including Nisonger Center.

Autism Speaks selected the RUPP group’s “Medication and parent training in children with pervasive developmental disorders and serious behavior problems” study as one of the 2009 “Top Ten” List of Achievements in Autism Research. The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected the same study for its 2009 IACC Summary of Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorder Research.


Faculty gained international prominence in dual diagnosis (intellectual disability and mental health) clinical services and research as well as use of psychotropic medications for persons with IDD.
The Center received a National Institutes of Health grant to create Ohio State’s Research Unit on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) group.

The Center, with funding from the Ohio Department of Health, established community-based, interdisciplinary Rural Development Clinics in four Appalachian counties.

Nisonger faculty developed extensive community-based functional behavior assessment and intervention services for persons with severe problem behaviors.


Center faculty was at the forefront of educational inclusion and peer-model research in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education (ECE).

Faculty contributed to the development of a national curriculum for a fellowship program in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics.

Nisonger was among the first to have a nationally recognized graduate program in adaptive physical education for children with developmental disabilities.

Faculty developed ECO Model for guiding the development of interactions between children and their caregivers.


Helped to pioneer the interdisciplinary professional training model for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Nisonger faculty began providing interdisciplinary training and service experiences in IDD for Ohio State undergraduate and graduate students across departments and colleges.

Faculty helped develop the Adaptive Behavior Scales of the American Association on Mental Retardation.
The Adult Training Project was funded to provide job training and living skills for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Nisonger Center became the first program in the country to include pastoral counseling and law among the faculty.


1963: President John F. Kennedy signed the “Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act” (P.L. 88-164), which made federal dollars available for “the construction of mental retardation facilities; grants for training professional personnel in the education of the handicapped; and grants for conducting research related to the education of the handicapped.”

1966: The Nisonger Center was created as an interdisciplinary program of The Ohio State University through funds from P.L. 88-164 and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Bureau. MCH funds built the McCampbell Hall building on the Ohio State medical campus, into which the Nisonger Center moved upon its completion in 1972. The building was named as a memorial to Eugene F. McCampbell, MD, PhD, Dean of Ohio State’s College of Medicine from 1917 to 1927.

Herschel W. Nisonger

Herschel W. Nisonger (1890–1969) devoted his energies to the field of mental health and intellectual disabilities on the local, state and national levels through research, consultation and administration. After graduating from The Ohio State University in 1914 and receiving his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1926, Mr. Nisonger accepted a professorship in Ohio State’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics. He later held positions as director of Ohio State’s Bureau of Special and Adult Education and director of Ohio State’s Bureau of Educational Research and Service. Mr. Nisonger was also director of special studies for the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD) and in 1961–62 served as president of AAMD (now American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities).