Category Archives: Autism

CHOP Looking for Participants for Virtual Reality Study

The Research Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is looking for teens and adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to participate in a research study using virtual reality.

The purpose of this research study is to test whether new virtual reality technology and interactive gaming applications can help to improve social skills in teens and adults with ASD.  Any teen over 12 or adult with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is eligible to participate.  Participants will be asked to make one to three visits to CHOP, wear virtual reality headsets and play interactive games, and complete questionnaires.  Participants will be compensated.

If you are interested in participating in the study or want to learn more, please contact Ashley Zitter at CHOP by email or by phone at (267) 426-4971.

BAS Family Conference

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Developmental Programs, Bureau of Autism Services will be hosting a free one-day conference for individuals with autism ages 17 and older and their family members, including parents, spouses, siblings and others.

This conference will provide provide strategies and resources about Advocacy, Relationships & Building Community.

 Conference Highlights:
  • Presenters sharing knowledge based on their personal and professional experiences
  • Resource Fair highlighting Pennsylvania Support & Advocacy Groups and organizations offering helpful information for adults with ASD and their families
  • Opportunities to socialize, connect and network
Saturday, September 19,  2015
Lancaster, PA
Registration is now open! To register for the conference, please email or call 1-844-300-4250 to request a registration form. This conference is free; there is no registration fee, but pre-registration is required. Continental Breakfast and Lunch will be provided. Registration deadline is September 8, 2015.
For more information, please contact  the Autism Services, Education, Resources & Training Collaborative (ASERT). Visit or call ASERT at 877-231-4244.

Autistic Teens Want To Drive

A study released by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Center For Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) looks at teens with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and driving.  They found that, among their sample of 300 teens, two-thirds are already driving or expect to drive.

“As a clinician who specializes in children with disabilities, I was interested to find that so many teens with high functioning autism spectrum disorders want to drive and do,” says Patty Huang, MD, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at CHOP and the lead author of the study. “We need to help them. Establishing a few indicators for these teens that will likely have an interest in driving is the first step in developing targeted strategies and interventions to support them and their families.”

The findings suggest that parents of teens with HFASDs would benefit from guidance in deciding if driving is the right choice for their individual family. Readiness to drive can be difficult to assess, and parents should be encouraged to seek the help of their child’s physician, an occupational therapist or driving instructor.

Modern Driver Institute is the only driver education provider in Pennsylvania that specializes in working with individuals with autism.   We recommend that driving goals be incorporated into your student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Autism and Driving: Don’t Panic!

Parenting an autistic child comes with a whole world of extra concerns that tend to pile themselves on top of the already nearly-insurmountable worries parents normally face.  I was at a workshop recently, and when the topic of driving came up, every parent in the room either groaned or shuddered.  The fear was palpable.  If this sounds like you, don’t panic.

Let me introduce myself.  I’m a professional driving instructor, living and working in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Over the past few years, I’ve specialized in training teens and young adults with diagnoses on the autism spectrum to drive safely.

When I began, it was just a matter of stepping up to a challenge to help a new student.  Before being a driving instructor, I spent years working in traffic safety research, so I buried myself in the published literature, scouring over scientific journals and books about autism looking for information specifically about autism and driving.  I found very little.  I often told the parents of my students that we’re writing the book on autism and driving through a bit of trial and error.

Parents, I know what you’re feeling.  I’ve had so many conversations with parents that have the same running questions:

  • “Will my son/daughter really be able to drive?”
  • “Do you really think it’s possible?”
  • “How in the world will we get him/her through the driving test?”
  • “Can he/she be trusted to drive alone?”

The students I’ve had so far have proved it’s absolutely possible.  They’ve been driving by themselves for years without incidents – no crashes, no tickets.   I  can help your own teen gain that independence all kids crave, and that is so important to living an independent adult life.

Autism in Pennsylvania

According to a 2008 survey by the Center For Disease Control (CDC), here is what the autism picture looks like in Pennsylvania:

  • 1 in 45 boys is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • 1 in 233 girls is diagnosed with ASD.
  • The total prevalence in Pennsylvania’s children is 1 in 75.
  • The national prevalence of ASD diagnoses is about 1 in 68 children.
  • Approximately 1 in 6 children is diagnosed with some form of developmental disability.