Florida Tech Leads in Autism Therapy, Research

– Florida Tech’s Applied Behavior Analysis program provides therapy for autistic children and adults while conducting research that will further enhance
treatment programs now and into the future.

The program, part of the university’s College of Psychology and Liberal Arts, today provides early intervention
treatment for five Brevard families, and is working with a number of adolescents and adults on specific autism-related issues. The program’s chair, Dr.
Jose Martinez Diaz, said research is ongoing in two specific areas.

“First, we are researching ways to improve language development in autistic children,” said Diaz. “Second, we are testing ways to diminish or eliminate
severe problem behaviors in autistic clients.” Problem behaviors for clients include self injury, aggression, and feeding disorders. Feeding disorders
range from not eating a variety of foods to eating “wrong” foods like wood or glue.

Autism is a growing problem in the United States, with estimates that one in every 166 to 294 people has some form of the disease. Florida Tech associate
professor David Wilder said autism estimates vary due to the spectrum nature of the disorder.

“Autism isn’t a disease like the measles, where each case is reflective of another,” he said. “Instead, autism works on a sliding scale, from severe issues
to relatively minor problems. In any case, we expect that there are somewhere between 10,000 and 17,000 people with some form of the disease living in East
Central Florida.”

The Florida Tech center continues to grow, with nine graduate assistants working on both treatment and research. Still, assistant professor Matthew Normand
said the center can’t keep up with demand.

“We’ve got a waiting list for both early intervention and specific issue treatment,” he said. To learn more, contact the Florida Tech College of Psychology and Liberal Arts at 321-674-8104.

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