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A state grant will help WMU treat autistic children with problem behaviors

The Kalamazoo Autism Center of Excellence sign stands by the road on Westnedge Avenue with an arrow pointing toward the Center. The Center is in the background along with cars filling its parking lot.
Nicole Morehouse
The Kalamazoo Autism Center of Excellence in October, 2023.

Western Michigan University's Autism Center of Excellence will study the children's behavioral and physical response in different environments to help tailor their treatment.

Western Michigan University’s Autism Center of Excellence recently received a grant to fund a treatment for children with developmental disabilities.

Stephanie Peterson is the executive director of the Center. She said some individuals with developmental disabilities engage in problem behaviors, such as causing injury to themselves or others.

“Our hypothesis is in large part that’s because sometimes they also have language deficits,” Peterson said.

With the $4 million grant, the center will conduct what’s called a biobehavioral assessment, where professionals observe children’s behavior and physical health in different environments. The center will then collaborate with physical and mental health professionals to provide treatment.

“Behavior-analytic treatments are some of the most research- and evidence-based supported treatments that are available," Peterson said.

She added that few places outside Kalamazoo offer this assessment.

“We’d like to build a replicable model for how to do this at a center like ours so that we can help others create similar centers across the state."