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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. Our goal is to assemble an interdisciplinary team of world class researchers who will 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 will improve the lives of individuals affected by ASD and their families. We aspire to be 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 will be geared toward making discoveries and generating evidence in support of practices that effectively prevent the physical and functional impairment associated with autism.  We will maintain a population perspective by always looking toward strategies having the broadest potential impact and/or focusing explicitly on groups in society that would be otherwise underserved or overlooked. The science that happens here will be 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 program for managing challenging behaviors among more severely impaired adults and thereby avoiding unnecessary polypharmacy.

Our team will include epidemiologists, community psychologists, environmental health scientists, and health and education policy research specialists. Ideally, we want all our research to be rooted in the community and to involve diverse populations rather than being based in controlled laboratory settings and focused on only select groups. To achieve this we will seek to involve the various constituencies concerned with autism (individuals with ASD, their families, clinicians, educators, policymakers, etc.) actively in our research. And, conversely, although the conduct public health science is our priority, our faculty will also engage with these communities around other activities that support their missions.

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 already started building on the Drexel School of Public Health’s tradition of autism public health science. Over the coming year, we expect growth in the number of Autism Institute-affiliated researchers and an expansion of the range of our research and non-research initiatives – so, please check back with this website frequently.

Craig Newschaffer
Craig Newschaffer