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CSO Perspectives: We Push the Boundaries of Science When Research Fields Intersect

Published on May 3, 2017 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 6 months ago


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Our researchers whose work is at the cross section between injury and neurodevelopmental or intellectual disabilities have a unique vantage point when studying the driving safety of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Research Institute is home to two of the most highly regarded autism and pediatric injury research centers in the world.

The Center for Autism Research (CAR) studies the causes and mechanisms of ASD and develops evidence-based clinical and behavioral interventions across the lifespan, while providing real-world support for individuals and families living with autism here and now.

As part of its mission, the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) identifies causes of road-related injury and death, then provides evidence to support education programs, vehicle and restraint design changes, and medical and legal policy that measurably reduce the number of children and teens involved in traffic-related deaths each year.

Yet, car crashes remain the number one cause of death for adolescents, which is why these two premier centers put in motion a research project to begin to learn more about the proportion of adolescents with ASD who get licensed and the rate at which they progress through Graduated Driving Licensing. Led by Principal Investigator Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, at CIRP, the study was published in April in the journal Autism and showed that as many as one in three teens with ASD without intellectual disability get licensed by age 21.

These findings will lead to a new line of research about how families make the decision to have their children with ASD pursue a driver’s license. We also want to better understand how adolescents with ASD drive and how clinicians and driver educators can support them and their families.

Study co-authors Benjamin Yerys, PhD, of CAR, and Patty Huang, MD, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at CHOP, are committed to working with Dr. Curry to create and evaluate resources for families and clinicians to assist teens with ASD who want to pursue a driver’s license.

In addition to studying injury risk and interventions for individuals with ASD, CIRP is expanding its collaborative work with other CHOP research centers to learn how other developmental and intellectual conditions affect driving safety, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder.

Finding ways to navigate important research questions from different points of view is one of our biggest strengths as a long-time promoter of thought leadership in pediatrics. Our paths to discovery intersect in unexpected ways, and exciting opportunities for research collaboration are around every corner, like the study teams at CAR and CIRP who recently moved in as neighbors at the new Roberts Center for Pediatric Research building. The workspace has a mix of different kinds of spaces designed to facilitate such partnership and inspire intellectual enrichment. It’s an ideal place for the Research Institute to stand out on the map of pediatric health.

Learn more about the study on rates and patterns of licensure for teens with ASD who want to drive in these Snapshot Science and Research in Action blog posts. More resources are available for their families at and CAR Autism Roadmap.