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Welcome from the Director

Welcome to the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, the first research organization to apply a public health science approach to understanding and addressing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The Autism Institute is leading the way in discovering, developing, promoting and disseminating population-level and community-based approaches that will prevent autism-associated morbidity and disability and improve the quality of life for individuals with autism of all ages.

Since its launch in 2012, the Autism Institute at Drexel University has distinguished itself as one of the nation’s leading academic authorities on public health issues in ASD. Our world class researchers span a variety of disciplines in public health science, and are united by our central mission of improving the quality of life for individuals with autism of all ages through community-based action.

Central to a public health approach are the ideas of prevention and population. Our work aims to discover and generate evidence in support of practices that effectively prevent or mitigate the impairments associated with ASD. We maintain a population perspective by always looking towards strategies with the broadest potential impact or an explicit focus on groups in society that are otherwise underserved or overlooked.

We strive to ensure that our research is rooted in the community and involves diverse populations instead of being solely based in lab research. To achieve this, we actively involve individuals with ASD, their families, clinicians, educators, policymakers, healthcare providers, and other community members directly in our research. Although conducting public health science is our priority, our faculty also engages with these communities around activities that support their missions outside of the public health field.

Our team includes epidemiologists, psychologists, sociologists, environmental health scientists, school psychologists, behavior analysts, social workers, and health and education policy research specialists. Our researchers strive to answer an array of questions through their projects, ranging from studies to determine if prenatal environmental exposures cause pathologic changes in the developing brain, to evaluations of screening, diagnosis, and early intervention approaches for community-based settings, to projects connecting youth and young adults with employment and educational opportunities, and more.

The Autism Institute launched in 2012 with support from Drexel University and a generous gift from the Charles and Barbara Close Foundation. In the years since, we’ve seen remarkable growth and development in our research projects and community-based initiatives that have had tangible results for people with autism and their families in Philadelphia and beyond. We’re excited to continue pursuing the work that makes a difference to so many whose lives have been touched by ASD. We hope you will follow us and support us on this journey.



Diana L. Robins, Ph.D.