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Psychology major gains experience and credentials

Alyssa Biscotto ‘15 came to Canisus to study psychology with plans to become a school psychologist. But she never imagined that she would have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder as an undergraduate student.

At Canisius, Biscotto conducted ground-breaking research through the college’s Institute for Autism Research (IAR). “Beginning in my sophomore year, I was part of a research team developing new and effective treatments for children with high-functioning autism.”

Biscotto gained experience collecting data, writing individualized behavior plans, administering tests, and training students, teachers and other paraprofessionals to accurately conduct the IAR’s programs. “I worked closely with parents and families to update them regarding their children’s progress. I also consulted with teachers to help them problem solve in their classrooms.”

One of the few centers in the U.S. conducting this type of research, the Institute for Autism Research is dedicated to understanding autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disorders and enhancing the lives of those affected, and their families. IAR faculty are nationally-recognized for their cutting-edge research, and the Institute remains competitive with national research institutions for grant funding.

Biscotto is currently enrolled in the University at Buffalo’s school psychology master’s program. She says she had an advantage when applying to graduate schools.

“Through the IAR, I was able to hone my clinical and research skills. By the time I applied to graduate school, I had already been working in a supervisory capacity and had gained experience in clinical settings and in schools.”

She also had the opportunity to present at both national and international conferences, something typically available only to graduate students. “I was published as an undergraduate which made me stand out amongst my peers.”

Biscotto credits the renowned IAR faculty for serving as her mentors. “I know I wouldn’t have had the research experiences I did as an undergraduate at any other university.”

For Biscotto, her work at the IAR solidified her career goal. “I plan to work in a school setting on behalf of children with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities.”

Alyssa Biscotto ’15 (left) works with children in the IAR’s summerMAX program. The comprehensive summer social development program for 7-12 year old children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs) teaches social skills and also provides multiple opportunities to practice the skills.