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Institute Collaborations

Posted on January 24, 2022
Trestle App Logo

Trestle App Logo

The researchers at the Autism Institute thrive on collaboration – both within and outside Drexel University. While the Institute has a long history of successful multi-site studies, in recent years, we've developed new ways to work with other schools and colleges within Drexel. Some highlights have been the generative Autism Research Consortium, and the development of the Trestle App.

Autism Research Consortium

The Drexel Autism Research Consortium (ARC) is a quarterly event hosted by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute that brings the University together across disciplines to pioneer new approaches to autism research and foster partnerships and collaboration. After the COVID-19 pandemic derailed an ARC meeting in the spring of 2020, the consortium was revived virtually in March of 2021. The last several quarterly meetings have given the floor to speakers from many different areas of the University including the Kline School of Law, the Dornsife School of Public Health, the College of Nursing and Health Professionals, Drexel School of Education, the College of Medicine, College of Engineering, Drexel Autism Support Program, and the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. Attendees have the opportunity to present to the group about ongoing research, as well as interest in developing new studies. Break out rooms support small group discussions after initial presentations to generate new ideas and foster future collaboration. For more information on how to get involved, please contact Meredith Bloom.


 In 2017, with funding from a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, Dr. Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, an assistant professor in the Life Course Outcomes (LCO) research program and the founder of the Social Dynamics of Intervention (SoDI) Lab, began working on the Trestle App, a web-based platform designed to help autistic young adults set life goals, track their progress, and gain support from their social networks. To design the first iteration of the Trestle app, Dr. Hassrick partnered with faculty and a team of undergraduate students at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Currently, with funding from the Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program, Dr. Hassrick and her team, including collaborators from the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the School of Education, Drexel University’s Justice-oriented Youth Lab, and the Impact Six LLC app development team, are conducting a quasi-experimental investigation to determine how the app impacts the transition to adulthood for autistic young adults.

Dr. Hassrick’s research focuses on how social networks can be utilized to create collaboration between autistic individuals and members of their communities, with an emphasis on using qualitative and social network data to investigate and improve outcomes for people on the spectrum. The work of the SoDI Lab looks at how multiple social factors – including a sense of belonging, trust, and willingness to get advice – can influence the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum.