Philadelphia has become a major city for autism research in just the past several years. Key sites:
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
The Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital includes more than 80 researchers in multiple fields, many of them also on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
AutismMATCH allows volunteers to fill out an online form that will be used to match them with future or ongoing studies. Among them are two supported by a recent gift from the Lurie Family Foundation, and new research on the hormone oxytocin’s effect on teenagers, which incorporates center director Robert Schultz’s work with computerized gaming. The center offers frequent workshops and lectures for families, many of them free, and is planning to launch an online autism services roadmap, with links to hundreds of treatment professionals around the region, in early 2012. Other aspects of the center’s work were described in an article that begins on page 8 of PENNMedicine magazine, “A New Center’s Challenge: To Understand Autism.”
The Autism Public Health Research Institute in the School of Public Health so far consists mainly of EARLI (Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation) study, directed by Craig J. Newschaffer, which is continuing to enroll families as it looks for possible environmental triggers of autism.
The new institute will approach the disorder from a community perspective that was explained in “Public Health Science: Can it Unlock the Mysteries of Autism?,” a series of articles in the school’s Interaction magazine.
Several institutions in the Philadelphia region are involved with autism research or professional training.
The University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing studies the prevalence of the disorder at the collaborative Pennsylvania Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology. The Drexel Autism Support Program trains peer mentors and has done work with other universities.
Others include St. Joseph’s University’s Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, West Chester University’s Certificate of Specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Lehigh University’s ASERT (Autism Service, Education, Research, and Training). Thomas Jefferson University offers a certificate for occupational therapists.
- Don Sapatkin