For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Social Networks and Autism


The Social Dynamics of Intervention Lab (SoDI Lab) works to understand, predict, and manipulate the social ecosystem of people on the autism spectrum and their life course outcomes. Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, PhD is the Lab Director.

The Social Dynamics of Intervention (SODI) Lab

The Social Dynamics of Intervention (SoDI) Lab aims to improve life outcomes for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through social network research. Social network research is just beginning to be applied to the field of autism. Dr. Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Lab Director, is one of the first researchers to apply sociological theories and social network measures to improve lifelong outcomes for people with ASD. We investigate how social capital, defined as key social resources including belonging, trust, reciprocity, problem solving, advice-giving, autism knowledge and supportive norms, impact outcomes for people on the spectrum, their caregivers and providers. We use qualitative and quantitative measures to capture social capital dynamics in ecosystems throughout different life stages.

Autism Intervention Research Network on Behavioral Health (AIR-B 3)

PI: Connie Kasari, Ph.D.
Funder: Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)
Years: 2015-2020

The goal of AIR-B 3 is to create community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnerships engaging community members, organizational representatives, researchers, and others in all aspects of the research process, with all partners in the process contributing expertise and sharing in the decision-making. The AIR-B 3 CBRP has developed interventions for low resource families of children with ASD and conducted pilot studies. Current projects include conducting random controlled trials for two interventions and building community partnerships in support of low resource families with children on the spectrum.


The first intervention is called Building Better Bridges . During school transitions, children with ASD can experience disruptions in services that negatively impact their transition success. BBB provides caregivers with coaching and support, helping them successfully plan for their child’s school transition and forge new connections post-transition. The SoDI lab is currently collecting network data to compare the average difference in network density, social capital and transition success between treatment and control BBB participants.


The second intervention, called Mind the Gap , addresses gaps in time to first service after an ASD diagnosis experienced by low-resourced families. MTG uses peer mentorship to help parents connect their children with resources and services, post diagnosis of ASD. The SoDI lab is currently collecting network data to compare the mean difference in network density, social capital and service participation between treatment and control MTG caregivers.


The third project, called From Silos to Synchrony, systematically measures network connections among community partners. Connecting organizations and systems with knowledge, ideas, and opportunities for children with ASD and their caregivers can help build the capacity of organizations and systems in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Rochester to synchronize and integrate service provision to better serve low resources families with autistic children, beyond the aims of the grant.

California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN)


PI: Aubyn Stahmer, Ph.D.
Drexel Site PI: Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Ph.D.
Funder: Institution of Education Sciences Captain (IESCap)
Years: 2017-2020

The California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN) provides training for teachers to help them provide evidence-based practices for children on the autism spectrum in their classrooms. The SoDI lab is currently measuring the support networks of CAPTAIN trainers to see if networks predict performance for job trainers. We are seeking to identify network-level factors that shape the delivery of evidence-based practices for children with ASD.

Care-coordination factors affecting postsecondary outcomes for minimally verbal young adults with autism

Oar PI: Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Ph.D.
Funder: Organization for Autism Research (OAR)
Year: 2019

The healthcare transition from pediatric services to adult services can be a turbulent time for the low-income, minimally verbal youth on the autism spectrum and their family. The SoDI Lab is currently conducting social network surveys and qualitative interviews with minimally verbal young adults, families, and healthcare transition service providers in order to measure levels of healthcare transition service support. The SoDI Lab is committed to continuously improving the social network protocol so that each interview can be tailored to the young adult’s communication preferences.

Service Network Coordination and Social Capital (Autism Transitions Research Project)

Help PI: Paul Shattuck, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Ph.D.
Funder: Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)
Years: 2017-2022

This pilot study investigates how to strengthen employment outcomes for young adults on the spectrum in extended high school (EHS). The SoDI lab is currently conducting qualitative interviews and social network surveys with young adults in EHS. Our social network surveys ask about the young adult’s social network including caregivers, providers, and anyone playing a role in the student’s transition from high school to employment. In order to find the way to strengthen employment outcomes, we must first identify the young adults’ social capital and discover areas in need of improvement.

Using Network Science to Investigate Ecosystem of Employment Support for Low-Resource Youth with ASD

EacPI: Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Ph.D.
Funder: Eagles Autism Challenge
Years: 2019-2022                

Currently, the SoDI Lab is preparing to begin recruitment of low-resource youth on the spectrum who are in their last year of extended high school (EHS) and participate in employment support interventions. The study will include collecting social network surveys, conducting interviews and focus groups, and recording observations and outcomes of the young adults’ participation in pre-employment programs. Young adults on the spectrum, caregivers, providers, and leaders of pre-employment programs will participate. This study will lead to development of effective interventions and supports for young adults on the spectrum looking for employment opportunities.