Roseann C. Schaaf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Professor, Occupational Therapy
Faculty, Farber Institute of Neuroscience

Schaaf, Roseann C


901 Walnut Street
6th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

215-503-4358 fax

Roseann C. Schaaf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Professor, Occupational Therapy
Faculty, Farber Institute of Neuroscience

Research and Clinical Interests

Autism, Sensory Functions, Autonomic Nervous System Activity

Autism is the most common developmental disability of childhood. Nearly 80% of those with autism experience difficulties processing and integrating sensory information that substantially interferes with function. This includes hypersensitive to sounds, sights, and the feel of fabric or other sensations; as well as difficulties with multisensory integration such as integrating auditory and visual information needed for language, or touch and movement sensations needed for learning and play. Parents and teachers indicate that these are some of the most challenging obstacles to participation in self-care, social and learning activities for their children. Dr. Schaaf’s program of research is seeking to understand and treat sensory difficulties in autism. Her lab studies the ways the brain perceives and integrates sensory information, how differences in sensory processing and integration impact everyday life skills, and whether occupational therapy interventions designed to treat these sensory issues result in long-lasting changes in functional skills needed for success in everyday life.  

With funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Dr. Schaaf’s lab is conducting a large clinical trial of occupational therapy using sensory integration principles for children with autism.  In collaboration with the Albert Einstein Medical Center in the Bronx, NY, this study is investigating changes in functional skills needed for daily living as well as brain changes in multisensory integration as a result of the intervention using EEG technology and a unique multisensory integration paradigm.  In collaboration with Jefferson researchers Drs. Feroze Mohammed, Laura Krisa, Andrew Newberg and Christopher Conklin, and Jefferson clinicians Cecilia Roan and Rachel Dumont, Dr. Schaaf is extending this work to determine, through brain imaging, if these functional changes also impact brain connectivity.

In order to effectively understand sensory functions in autism it is necessary to have sensitive, validate assessment measures.   Dr. Schaaf, in collaboration with Adjunct Associate Professor Dr. Zoe Mailloux, an expert in test development, are developing, field testing and validating  a new clinical assessment that can be used to evaluate sensory functions.  This project utilizes an international cohort of occupational therapy clinicians and researchers to collect normative data and perform validity and reliability studies of the tests.

To learn more about Dr. Schaaf’s research, visit the Autism Lab, or see the link below