Autism Acceptance Month: Social Capital Expert

For April’s Autism Acceptance Month, Drexel News Blog is highlighting experts from Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, whose research ranges from studies to determine if prenatal environmental exposures cause pathologic changes in the developing brain, to evaluations of screening, diagnosis and early intervention approaches for community-based settings, to projects connecting youth and young adults with employment and educational opportunities, and more.

Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, PhD, an assistant professor in the Autism Institute, studies how social relationships provide resources and supports for autistic people at different stages of life. Her work focuses on social networks and autism, including social network support in school settings for autistic children, social network support for autistic youth during the transition to adulthood, as well as social network support for parents and caregivers of autistic individuals.

“Social resources, such as trust, emotional support, advice, coaching, informational exchanges, knowledge sharing and common norms that support inclusion of neurodiverse people, are referred to as ‘social capital,’ as they can help autistic people achieve their goals and improve their life outcomes,” said McGhee Hassrick. “I use social network analysis, qualitative data and social media applications to measure, track and improve the social capital of autistic people to improve life course outcomes.”

McGhee Hassrick is currently pilot testing a new app, called Trestle (Team IEP), that can help young autistic adults share their goals with their social networks in real time and receive feedback, coaching and support through the app. 

Hassrick believes Autism Acceptance Month is important because, “Coming together as a society to celebrate neurodiversity can establish social norms that help build supportive relationships for autistic people and create a more inclusive, just society.”

Media interested in speaking with McGhee Hassrick should contact Annie Korp, news manager, at 215-571-4244 or