Autism Lab


Name: Roseann C. Schaaf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Position: Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
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Name: Catherine Verrier Piersol, PhD, OTR, FAOTA
Position: Department Chair & Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy

901 Walnut Street, 6th Floor
Suite 644
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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Researchers in the Autism Laboratory located within Thomas Jefferson University's, Department of Occupational Therapy, are dedicated to translational research initiatives designed to enhance participation in daily living, educational, social, and leisure activities for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Investigating factors that impact such participation in individuals with ASD, assessing occupational therapy interventions aimed to help foster participation, and identifying potential environmental adaptions, has the potential to increase quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families.

Areas of Study

  • Processing and integrating sensory information and its impact on functional skills and performance in activities in home, school, and community environments.
  • Evaluating sensory reactivity and multisensory integration using standardized assessments, psychophysiological measurement, brain imaging, and multisensory integration-evoked related brain potentials.
  • Exploring the relationship between sensory processing differences and higher-level functions such as social skills, cognition and language.
  • Implementing occupational therapy interventions to address sensory difficulties and evaluating their impact on brain networks and functional skills.
  • Studying occupational therapy interventions that facilitate participation in recreational activities as a means to improve quality of life in young adults with autism – the EuREKA Project
  • Greater Opportunity for Academic Learning (GOAL2) Project
  • Environmental modifications to facilitate participation in the community (SAFE: Sensory Aware and Friendly Environments)
  • Innovative Design for Engaged Attention and Learning (IDEAL)

Roseann C. Schaaf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy

Zoe Mailloux, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Adjunct Associate Professor

Amy Carroll, OTD, OTR/L
Assistant Professor

Laura Krisa, PhD
Assistant Professor

Marie-Christine Potvin, PhD, OTR/L
Associate Professor
(East Falls Campus)

Rachel Dumont, OTR/L
Autism Research Coordinator

Students who are highly motivated, with strong academic achievement, and who have an interest in autism and/or sensory integration are invited to join this lab. Here student will develop an understanding of autism and its unique features and considerations. Students participate in one or more of the research projects, gain a more in-depth understanding of autism and gain experience and practice with research related to autism and neuroscience. Projects are varied and may include analysis of existing data, collection of prospective data, literature reviews, and data entry.

Students can gain experience in:

  • Determining patterns of sensory differences in children with autism
  • Comparing the effectiveness of occupational therapy using sensory integration to behavioral intervention for improving functional skills in children with autism
  • Categorizing common goals of parents using a grounded theory approach
  • Assessing resting state connectivity during sensory using Inter-Regional Connectivity
  • Evaluating pilot testing in Ayres Sensory Integration
  • Examining the impact of dynamic sitting on arousal and task completion

  • National Institutes of Health (NICHD) Grant # R01HD082814-01A1
  • VIRCO Corporation
  • American Occupational Therapy Foundation