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Autism Acceptance Month: Prenatal and Environmental Risk Factor Expert

Kristen Lyall headshot

April 19, 2021

For April’s Autism Acceptance Month, Drexel News Blog highlighted the research of Kristen Lyall, ScD, an assistant professor in the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. Lyall has a secondary appointment in the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Dornsife School of Public Health.

Her work focuses on relationships between prenatal exposure to environmental chemicals, as well as maternal diet, and autism spectrum disorder and broader neurodevelopment.

“I am an epidemiologist; broadly speaking I’m looking for patterns to try and better understand environmental factors that may influence autism and related traits,” said Lyall. “The goals are to better understand contributing factors, mechanisms and pathways involved in development of complex outcomes.”

Lyall’s research also focuses on studying autism spectrum disorders (ASD) not as a categorical “yes/no” condition, but along a continuum of social communication, and trying to learn about relationships with factors in the environment across the population distribution of those traits.

She recently published a study related to this topic examining different ways of measuring ASD-related traits, and another examining relationships between parental age and these ASD-related traits.

Lyall believes Autism Acceptance Month is an important way to increase awareness, highlight ongoing work and findings, and improve understanding so that families can be better supported.

Read the full article on the Drexel News Blog

For April’s Autism Acceptance Month, Drexel News Blog also highlighted Diana Schendel, PhD, a professor at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute who leads the Research Program in Modifiable Risk Factors for ASD. Schendel has a secondary appointment in the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Dornsife.

Her primary focus is looking at a variety of risk factors during pregnancy that may be associated with autism, such as maternal health conditions, like diabetes or hypertension, and maternal exposure to air pollution.

Read more about Schendel's work on the Drexel News Blog.

To learn how a co-op at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute combined one undergraduate's love of chemistry with her desire to help people watch A Co-op Combines Public Health and Chemistry to Study Autism.