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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 of transition-age youth on the autism spectrum

The Transition Odyssey of Youth with Autism on the Road to Adulthood: Parent Interview

This new study will pilot test an interview for parents and guardians of young adults with autism about their experiences during the transition years. This study involves completing background information forms and talking to the research team by phone or through videoconference. We will ask about topics like the transition out of high school, services the youth received, and barriers to transition planning. You can participate in this study if you are the parent or legal guardian of a young adult with autism spectrum disorder. You must have a young adult who: 1) has been out of high school for between 2 and 6 years, 2) received special education services at some point during high school, and 3) needed help with transition in one or more domain (employment, health care, mental health care, postsecondary education). We are currently interested in talking to parents who speak English. Participants who complete the study will receive a $25 gift card of your choice (Target, Walmart, or Amazon) upon completion of background forms, and another $25 card upon completion of an interview if selected.

For individuals on the autism spectrum

Using Network Science to Investigate Social Networks and Employment Support for Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum

How do social networks and pre-employment experiences shape the transition from high school for young adult on the autism spectrum? When a young adult is preparing for employment, they can rely on a network of supporters, including parents/guardians, family members, school staff and community people to help them gain employment. In our research study, we want to learn how young adults build social networks and collaborate with the people in their networks, as they prepare for employment post-high school.

To participant in our study, the young adult must have the following:

  • Autism classification
  • Be in their final year of high school or extended high school OR be within 3-12 months post-high school or extended high
  • 18 years old or older

If you are eligible and decide to participate in our study, we will ask you to complete virtual/online tasks, such as a survey, study forms, and/or an interview with us. The research tasks can take place whenever best fits your schedule, including morning, business or evening hours during the week or weekend. Your experiences will help us gather information about how social networks and employment shape transition for young adults on the spectrum. Participants will be paid for each task they complete in the study.

Participants will be paid $20 for each task they complete in the study. If you're interested in participating or learning more, please fill out our Interest Form (link below)

For parents with a child on the autism spectrum

Connecting the Dots - Down Syndrome Study

Children with Down syndrome are invited to participate in a study on early intervention outcomes at Drexel University. Children will complete a developmental evaluation and families will receive a report detailing their child’s abilities.  Afterwards, children will be randomized into either six months of play-based intervention or treatment as usual. After six months, all children will have another evaluation. Family benefits are $50 per evaluation as well as recommendations and valuable information about your child’s functioning. Children must be between the ages of 12 and 50.99 months to participate.

The Care of Autistic Pediatric Patients in the Emergency Department: Parent/Legal Guardian and Clinician Perspectives

A new study aims to explore the thoughts and experiences of parents/clinicians regarding the care of autistic children who enter the Emergency Department. Participants will be asked to describe what strategies they have employed or believe should be employed in the Emergency Department to manage behavioral problems, improve communication and assess symptoms. Parents/legal guardians of minor children with autism between the ages of 3 to 13 who had a visit to the Emergency Department within the last 12 months are eligible to participate. Confidential, hour-long interviews will be held by teleconference or in person.

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.

Examining Preverbal Social Learning Processes in Minimally Verbal Children with Autism

Minimally verbal children with autism are often considered to be “untestable”, resulting in an underestimation of their potential, exclusion from intervention trials, and a poor foundation for developing targeted interventions. In order to optimize and customize interventions so that they are beneficial to minimally verbal children with autism, a fine-grained characterization of their learning profile is needed, particularly in the social-cognitive and social-motivational abilities that are foundational to language. This study addresses this gap by examining strengths and needs of minimally verbal children with ASD using a novel experimental battery, called Measurement of Preverbal Social Learning (MOPSL). The MOPSL is designed to provide a fine-grained measurement of social motivational and social cognitive prerequisites for language using cutting-edge eye-tracking and pupillometry techniques. These allow to measure attentional and emotional responses to stimuli using a non-invasive infra-red technology to generate indices of attention engagement and emotional arousal. Additionally, understanding strengths and needs in abilities foundational to verbal development is a critical step to enable delivery of targeted interventions for the neglected population of minimally verbal children with autism, thus promoting the overall rate of optimal intervention outcomes, and improving wellbeing across the autism spectrum of severity.

Assessment of Brain Function during Social Interaction among Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

A new study at Drexel University aims to explore brain function of young children (ages 18 to 42 months) during social interactions. Your child will wear neuroimaging sensors on a headband, which will be used to capture brain activity while playing and watching some brief videos. The study is enrolling typically developing children as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Families will receive $100 for participation in the study that includes zoom session and site visit.