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Getting Involved

The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is the first research organization built around a public health science approach to understanding and addressing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders. We invite parents, people on the autism spectrum, physicians, childcare providers and others to participate in research studies to advance the base of knowledge we have on autism from early detection through transition to adulthood. Take a look at the studies below and contact us if you are interested in participating.

For parents with a child on the autism spectrum

Disaster Communications Study

Families with children who have an autism spectrum disorder can have major challenges during disasters. The CDC is working with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute to survey families so that they know what kind of information families need for their children during disasters. Parents and caregivers of a child on the autism spectrum are invited to participate in a 15-minute online survey. Answers will be used to help the government, your doctors, and community groups get families the information they need to help keep their children safe during disasters.

Improving Child-Treatment Fit in Autism Early Intervention Study

The goal of this study is to understand how to adapt teaching techniques to each child's way of learning. The study is open to parents of children ages 24-36 months who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Researchers will provide children with 10, 1-hour teaching sessions per week for three months to address their learning needs at no cost.

Connecting the Dots

This study aims to explore how screening and surveillance helps children with autism in the long run. Results from this study will empower providers with evidence-based procedures to detect ASD, optimize care for patients, and improve long-term outcomes. If you're the parent of a toddler, please consider taking the flyer to your child's pediatric provider and encouraging them to join the study. We are currently enrolling primary care providers who see toddlers for well child visits within a 60-minute drive of Drexel University/30th Street Station.

Communication in Autism Parent Coaching Program

The goal of this study is to test a new program called ‘Communication in Autism Parent Coaching Program’. The program aims to teach parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder how to build their children’s language and communication skills.

Lighting and Repetitive Behavior Study

How do fluorescent-based and LED-based lighting systems influence the level of repetitive behavior shown by young children with ASD? Children ages 6-10 years with an autism diagnosis and history of repetitive behavior are eligible to participate in two sessions including a screening interview, assessments and observation under both lighting conditions. Participants will receive $50 for completing both sessions.

Electronic Media Viewing Study

How does removing television and other screen media viewing affect young children with autism? Children ages 18 months-42 months diagnosed with ASD are eligible for this study. Children will be enrolled for 6 months, participate in genetic testing, visit Drexel for child assessment twice, and participate in weekly visits to support a screen-free environment. Participants will receive $100 upon completion of the study.

For people on the autism spectrum

Ethical Autism Research Cultures and Community Engagement

Recently, autistic self-advocates, the neurodiversity movement, and academics have worked to change the terms of ethical discussion about autism. They argue that autism represents a natural human variation associated with both strengths in need of cultivation and limitations or challenges requiring supports. Through your participation in an hour-long focus group or interview, this study hopes to understand your perspective on autism research development and design.

To participate you must be at least 18 years of age AND your own legal guardian and either 1) have autism, 2) be a parent/caregiver to someone with autism, 3) be an advocate, or 4) be someone who provides services to autistic children and/or adults.

Childhood Adversity and Autism Study

This study will involve comprehensive psychosocial evaluations of verbally fluent teens and young adults (12-22 years) with ASD. Participants do not need to have experienced a traumatic event to be eligible for the study. Rather we are very interested in understanding how a wide range of adversities impact individuals with ASD. Participation in the study involves parents and their teen or young adult children with ASD completing some questionnaires and also participating in a 5-hour psychosocial evaluation, with a 1-hour feedback session, approximately 3-4 weeks later. The evaluation involves some assessments of reasoning and social ability and also an interview that will assess for past adversity and symptoms of traumatic stress and other stress-related disorders. All participants will receive a written report describing the results of the evaluation and providing treatment recommendations at their 3-4 week follow up session. Participants will also receive a $50 Amazon gift code for their time and effort.

Social Cognition Study

The goal of the social cognition study is to learn how people understand moving shapes, including how thoughts, feelings, and experiences influence what people see. Adolescents and adults ages 16-35 years, with and without autism are eligible for this study. Volunteers will answer questions, watch videos of moving shapes, and complete tasks on a computer at the Autism Institute in Philadelphia, PA or in the Mobile Assessment Unit. All tasks will take about four hours. You can complete all tasks during one four-hour visit or two shorter visits. Participants will receive up to $40 for their time.

For health care and service providers

Disaster Communications Study

Families with children who have an autism spectrum disorder can have major challenges during disasters. The CDC is working with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute to survey health care and service providers so that they know what kind of information families need for their children during disasters. Health care providers or other health and social service professionals are invited to participate in a 15-minute online survey. Answers will be used to help the government, doctors, and community groups get families the information they need to help keep their children safe during disasters.

Connecting the Dots

This study aims to explore how screening and surveillance helps children with autism in the long run. Results from this study will empower providers with evidence-based procedures to detect ASD, optimize care for patients, and improve long-term outcomes. We are currently enrolling primary care providers who see toddlers for well child visits within a 60-minute drive of Drexel University/30th Street Station.

Mobilizing Community Systems Study

The Mobilizing Community Systems study is a collaboration among four universities and involves primary care training in ASD, universal screening using the Smart Early Screener for Autism and Communication Disorders, tracking of referrals and their uptake, and early intervention training, which are all supported by a web-based platform.

Usual Care for Autism Survey

Drexel University is conducting a research study to learn more about the practices that are currently being used by community providers for older youth with ASD. You may be eligible to participate in our research study if you currently teach or provide non-pharmacological treatment to youth with ASD between the ages of 7-22 years old, or if you are a psychologist, behavior therapist, doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner, occupational or physical therapist, counselor, marriage & family therapist, social Worker, speech-language provider or therapist, or teacher, educator, aide or other school professional who works directly with youth with ASD. Participants will receive $40 upon completion of the study.

There are additional studies not sponsored by the Drexel Autism Institute also looking for participants. Learn more.