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EXPERTS AVAILABLE: Mizzou scholars available for Autism Awareness

March 27th, 2018

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 45 children is diagnosed with autism. Those affected by autism around the world will observe the 11th annual World Autism Day on April 2. Autism friendly events and educational activities will take place all month to promote an increased understanding of autism spectrum disorder.

Mizzou offers the following experts as you work on stories about autism. These individuals and their research are affiliated with the University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. The center is a national leader in collaborative research, training and service programs aimed at improving the lives of individuals and families affected by autism.

  • Teens and young adults: Nancy Cheak-Zamora studies the perspectives of adolescents with autism to identify challenges as they ‘age out’ of services. She can speak to the challenges and opportunities that arise as children with autism get older, leave school, find jobs and live alone. She also can address how caregivers experience a child’s transition to adulthood and can best advocate for them. Cheak-Zamora is an associate professor of health sciences in the School of Health Professions.
  • Genetic targeting: Chi-Ren Shyu and a team of researchers recently created a new computational method that has connected several new target genes to autism. Shyu’s advances in genetic targeting could help develop clinical programs and methods that can help diagnose and treat autism. Shyu is the director of the Informatics Institute and the Paul K. and Dianne Shumaker Endowed Professor of electrical engineering in the College of Engineering.
  • Applied behavior analysis: SungWoo Kahng, an autism specialist who has helped to successfully integrate applied behavior analysis (ABA) into care for those with autism. ABA is the science of understanding why people behave in various ways and how understanding those motivations can shape behavior. Kahng can help parents understand why children with autism behave a certain way and how to reform problematic behaviors. Kahng is an associate professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions.
  • Training doctors: Kristin Sohl serves as the director for ECHO Autism, a telehealth program that trains primary care providers to diagnose and manage autism spectrum disorders. Sohl can discuss how telehealth programs help families who live in rural or remote communities. Sohl is an associate professor of child health in the School of Medicine.
  • Stress and autism: David Beversdorf, associate professor in radiology, neurology and psychological sciences at MU, studies gene/stress interactions in the development of autism. His research team studied gastrointestinal issues in people with autism and how that might be related to an increased reaction to stress. Recently his team started a clinical trial, looking at how a common blood pressure medication might be used to treat autism.
  • Training: Jena Randolph and Karen O’Connor direct innovative training programs, including the Autism Friendly Business training and Self-Determined Transition Readiness through Vocational Experiences (STRIVE), a job readiness program for young adults with autism.

For interviews with these or other Mizzou experts, please contact Sheena Rice at (573) 882-8353 or