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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events

The division’s current projects and programs for autistic people, at a glance
April 18, 2022

In recognition of Autism Month, a round-up of all that's happening at USC Chan.


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By Bryan Morales

The month of April is recognized as Autism Month, dedicated to the inclusion and recognition of autistic individuals and those in the autism community, including parents, caretakers, teachers, practitioners and self-advocates. Within the USC Chan Division is a collection of projects and programs that aims to address various aspects of the lives of autistic individuals. Below is a round-up of our research labs and active grants, community projects and partnerships, clinical services and educational opportunities. Read below to learn more!

Research Labs and Active Grants

The Center for the Neuroscience of Embodied Cognition (PI: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh) explores the idea that rudimentary sensory-motor brain regions, which may have been originally designed for processing our own body states, may be intrinsically involved in processing aspects of higher cognition, including language, thought, emotions, empathy and social understanding.

Boundary Crossings (PI: Mary Lawlor) addresses a range of issues related to the lived experiences of children, adolescents and adults who have health and developmental challenges as they engage in the extraordinary and ordinary activities that constitute living and learning in daily life.

The Disparity Reduction and Equity in Autism Services (DREAmS) Lab (PI: Amber Angell) works to identify, measure, understand and reduce disparities in autism diagnosis and services, with an overarching vision to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity for all individuals on the autism spectrum.

The Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research (insp!re) Lab (PI: Grace Baranek) is aimed at advancing knowledge of early risk signs of ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

The Sensory Adaptations in Dental Environments Lab (PI: Sharon Cermak) studies the sensory characteristics of the dental environment in order to decrease children’s physiological anxiety and negative responses during oral care and contribute to increased child comfort as well as safer, more efficient and less costly dental treatment.

Community Projects and Partnerships

  • Sensory Processing and Autism Network (SPAN)
    Aimed at leveraging collective expertise, resources and stakeholders to synergize goals, generate new discoveries, test/implement tailored assessments and interventions and mobilize knowledge to influence practice, education and policy.
  • HELP Group partnership and doctoral residency
    Aimed at helping young people fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives through services for children, adolescents and young adults with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional challenges.
  • Training for USC’s Department of Public Safety officers
    Aimed at educating the University of Southern California’s Department of Public Safety on what signs to look for, and how those signs can often be misinterpreted by those who are unfamiliar with autism.

Clinical Services