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Richard Serna

Richard W. Serna, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Graduate Coordinator for the Autism Studies Program


Applied Behavior Analysis in the treatment of autism; Experimental Analysis of Behavior; auditory & visual discrimination learning; simulation in distance-learning applications.

Research Interest

Richard Serna, Ph.D. joined the psychology faculty in September, 2011, having spent the past 11 years as an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the UMass Medical School. Dr. Serna’s research and development efforts are directed primarily at addressing two areas of concern for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities both of which involve behavior analysis (experimental and applied) as a tool for potential solutions. The first area concerns the limited and impaired auditory learning skills often seen in children with autism. These problems impose limitations on a wide range of learning opportunities, including communication, social skills training, and academic instruction. Dr. Serna's research in this area investigates auditory discrimination in the autism population from both behavioral and psychophysiological (EEG) perspectives. The second area concerns training for parents and paraprofessionals on the sound implementation of treatment methods for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Early behavioral intervention has the strongest and most consistent scientific support as a means of teaching skills to young children with autism and reducing their restricted and maladaptive behavior. Unfortunately, few training programs are available to geographically disparate persons. Dr. Serna, together with other colleagues, is currently developing online distance-learning education programs that may offer a potential solution to the problem. Dr. Serna is also initiating efforts to bring this training to the Spanish-speaking Latino Community.

Educational Background

B.A., Psychology, University of New Mexico, 1980; Ph.D., Psychology (Analysis of Behavior), Utah State University, 1987.