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Welcome from the Director

Welcome to the website of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. The Autism Institute is the first research organization dedicated to bringing a public health approach to the challenges presented by autism spectrum disorders. We have assembled an interdisciplinary team of world class researchers who employ the various disciplines of public health science to generate and translate knowledge about autism's character, causes, and consequences into community-based action that improves the lives of individuals affected by ASD and their families. We are well on our way to becoming the nation’s leading academic authority on autism public health issues.

Central to a public health approach are the ideas of “prevention” and “population.” Our science is geared towards making discoveries and generating evidence in support of practices that effectively prevent the physical and functional impairment associated with autism. We maintain a population perspective by always looking towards strategies that have the broadest potential impact or an explicit focus on groups in society that are otherwise underserved or overlooked. The science that happens here is diverse, ranging from studies to determine if prenatal environmental chemical exposure causes pathologic changes in the developing brain, to evaluations of new training approaches for community-based early intervention specialists, to projects developing model programs for managing challenging behaviors among more severely impaired adults and thereby avoiding unnecessary polypharmacy.

Our team includes epidemiologists, community psychologists, environmental health scientists, and health and education policy research specialists. We strive to make sure that our research is rooted in the community and involves diverse populations rather than being based in controlled laboratory settings and focused on select groups. To achieve this we actively involve the various constituencies concerned with autism (individuals with ASD, their families, clinicians, educators, policymakers, etc.) 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.

The Autism Institute launched in July of 2012 with support from the university and a generous gift from the Charles and Barbara Close Foundation. We have built on the Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health’s tradition of autism public health science. The years since the Autism Institute’s launch have seen remarkable growth in the number of Autism Institute-affiliated researchers and an expansion of the range of our research and non-research initiatives that we plan to continue – so, please check back with this website frequently.

Craig Newschaffer
Craig Newschaffer