Autism is focus of new graduate education specialization

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KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University trustees approved an autism specialization during their April 19 meeting.

The program will be part of the master teacher option offered within WMU's Master of Arts in Special Education. It will consist of 36 credit hours of coursework related to the teaching of autistic children. The program will help to train teachers for that special population and also will complement the master teacher option's existing specializations in emotional impairments, cognitive impairments and learning disabilities.

Autism is on the rise nationally, and WMU has long been recognized for its leadership role in preparing professionals to provide research and treatment. Recently, it was announced that the University is collaborating with Residential Opportunities Inc. to establish the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research. ROI will run, develop and manage the center's physical facility, while WMU will integrate practicum students and provide consultation services. Directing the center will be Lloyd Peterson, an adjunct professor in WMU's special education and literacy studies department and a behavioral consultant with Compass LLC, a behavioral intervention consulting service.

The new center will focus on helping autistic youths correct problematic behaviors as well as on providing inpatient and outpatient care services. The facility will include a residential wing that annually provides longer-term services for about 20 children with the most severely challenging behaviors. It is located in Portage, Mich., at 9616 Portage Road.