Autism Awareness Month: Meet the Expert, Lindsay Shea, Policy and Analytics Researcher

Lindsay Shea, DrPH, leads the Policy and Analytics Center at the AJ Drexel Autism Institute.

Over the course of Autism Awareness month, the Drexel News Blog has spoken with researchers from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, who are leading the autism research field.

To accomplish the mission of the Institute – understanding and addressing the challenges of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and improving the quality of life for individuals of all ages with ASD – researchers focus on four core disciplines: modifiable risk factors; early detection and intervention; life course outcomes; and policy and analytics.

Lindsay Shea, DrPH, is an assistant professor and the Director of the Policy and Analytics Center at the Institute. Shea and her colleagues in the Center are using research and analysis techniques to support the development of effective social and health policies in cities, states and nationally.

What does the Policy and Analytics Center do?

The Policy and Analytics Center uses data analysis and direct policymaker engagement to conduct research at the city, state, and national levels. PAC staff meet with policymakers every day to make sure research findings are used as an evidence base for policy creation and implementation.

Through these connections, the Policy and Analytics Center is also able to ensure research questions include policy relevance and focus on real, everyday issues, barriers, and opportunities. The Policy and Analytics Center focuses on using big data and has been among the first to identify needs and train first responders, including police officers, on the symptoms and needs of individuals with autism.

How did you become interested in autism research?

I worked in a hospital where the doctors spent many hours beyond their committed work time trying to serve the growing number of children with autism and their families. The families were desperate to see them. It was clear that the policies that paid doctors for their time did not maximize their ability to meet the families that needed to see them. Immediately, I became interested in policy change and how to ensure the best structure is in place.

Why is Autism Awareness Month important? 

The field of autism research still has many major barriers to overcome. Individuals from underserved and underrepresented communities continue to face gaps and delays in getting the care they need, adults with autism continue to need access to services and supports throughout their lives, and there is little to no documented research on older adults with autism. Autism Awareness month is critical to continue to push for movement and improvement to reach all individuals with autism, regardless of their location, age, race/ethnicity, or health insurance.

This series also includes interviews with interim director and professor, Diana Robins, and assistant professor, Nathaniel Snyder, of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.

Media interested in an interview with Lindsay Shea should contact Annie Korp at 215-571-4244 or