Missouri State Professor Working to Develop New Treatments for Autism

An assistant professor at Missouri State University is working to develop training methods to help children and adults with autism.

Dr. Jordan Belisle, an assistant professor of psychology, is working on research into how behavioral intervention can improve the lives of those with autism and their family and caretakers.

“Behavioral intervention is not about ‘fixing’ autism or ‘solving a puzzle,’ but it is about teaching children and their families new skills that can move them toward the life they value,” Belisle said in a statement.

Belisle is working to adapt current treatments for autism in individual ways because autism has a different impact on each person. Some may not be able to communicate, others may not know how to adapt to a restriction in life because of their disability.

Belisle says that this kind of treatment is vital for youth because the problems of autism can be compounded with other mental health issues due to misunderstandings of their condition.

“Rates of depression, anxiety and suicide are very high in adolescents who are less severely impacted, so a lot of our work is centered on teaching people to be flexible in their environment,” Belisle said. “When we focus on these challenges at the individual level, we often achieve successful outcomes.”

The goal of the behavior intervention programs is to teach new skills to adapt to life’s challenges in a way that helps the autistic person desire to learn and grow.

“More than anything, the goal is to establish a love of learning,” Belisle said. “Our goal is to reward learning so it can happen naturally in any context.”