The mission of the Eagles Autism Foundation is to support the highest quality and most impactful autism research and care to improve the lives of affected individuals and families now, as well as foster the acquisition of knowledge, technologies, and discoveries that will bring new opportunities in the future. While we remain steadfast in our commitment to fund the most innovative research, we also recognize the immediate need to serve individuals through the community grant program.
Our Impact 2020
For the scientific review process this year, the Eagles Autism Foundation continued to work with their lead scientific advisor, Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, an accomplished biomedical researcher from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to lead the scientific review process. This year’s peer review panel is made up of sixteen internationally recognized researchers who have demonstrated a clear and steadfast commitment to autism research, services and programs. The chosen scientists are leaders in specific subject areas within Autism that contributed to a diverse and powerful panel.
Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Dr. DiCicco Bloom attended Cornell University Medical College and also currently works within child neurology at the Child Health Institute. His current basic research at Rutgers focuses on gene and growth factor regulation of neurogenesis during brain development, with a focus on models of human neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and environmental teratogens.
Dr. Anita Bhattacharyya
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Anita Bhattacharyya completed her PhD at the University of Cincinnati and is currently a Principal Investigator at the Waisman Center. Bhattacharyya’s research focuses on how the development of the cerebral cortex is altered in developmental disorders. Her goal is to use stem cells to examine the alterations that occur in cortical development in Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and autism. Her studies will help with the understanding of the developmental disorders, but also human brain development in general.
Dr. Eric Butter
Ohio State University College of Medicine
Eric Butter received his PhD in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Child Clinical and Community Psychology from Bowling Green State University. Butter is a founding faculty member of Nationwide Children’s Child Development Center, which is an interdisciplinary program offering multiple specialties including psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, speech and language therapy and genetics counseling. His research primarily focuses on bio-medical correlates and potential etiologies of Autism Spectrum disorder and ADHD as well as psychological and medical treatment of these disorders.
Dr. Adriana DiMartino
Child Mind Institute
Dr. Adriana DiMartino completed her MD from Universita’ degli Studi di Cagliari, School of Medicine in Cagliari, Italy. Dr. DiMartino focuses on researching autism spectrum disorder and how to best understand the neurobiology using brain images and other clinical and cognitive approaches. Her research puts specific interest on autism-related differences in brain connectivity in early childhood with hopes of identifying objective biological markers that can be used to improve early intervention and selection of treatments. She also studies neural bases of other neurodevelopmental disorders that often co-occur with autism spectrum disorder.
Dr. Damien Fair
University of Minnesota
Damien Fair received his PhD in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. His research focuses on using functional MRI and resting state functional connectivity MRI to assess typical and atypical populations. He also tests the feasibility of using various functional and structural MRI techniques in translational studies of developmental neuropsychiatric disorders. He works within the Developmental Cognition and Neuroimaging Lab as well as the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Heather Cody Hazlett
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Heather Cody Hazlett is a staff member at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. She received her Ph.D. in School Psychology specializing in child neuropsychology from the University of Georgia. Hazlett is a licensed psychologist, and her primary focus is on autism spectrum disorders. Through her research, she focuses on cognitive neuroscience, brain development, magnetic resonance imaging and neuroimaging. In addition to research, Hazlett participates in a multi-disciplinary clinic conducting evaluations for autism spectrum disorders and co-supervises a pediatric neuropsychology clinic.
Dr. Susan Hyman
University of Rochester Medical Center
Susan. L. Hyman, MD, has three decades of experience treating and researching autism spectrum disorders and is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on Autism. Hyman completed her MD from Brown University. Hyman’s recent research has focused on the diet and nutrition of children with autism, most effective behavioral treatments for the developmental disorder, and medical management of children and adolescents with Autism. She is well-versed in current research of the genetic and potential environmental causes of autism and of the important role of parents in treating children. Hyman’s research on the gluten- and casein-free diet, which is popular for individuals with Autism, showed that the diet had no impact on their behavior when they do not have gastrointestinal issues. Officials also called upon Hyman to explain the development of the sizeable jump in Autism prevalence rates in 2012 announced by the CDC to national media.
Dr. Chiara Manzini
Child Health Institute of New Jersey
Chiara Manzini received her PhD from Columbia University. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the Child Health Institute of New Jersey. She researches how deficits in brain development affect cognitive function. Her lab identifies genes which cause neurodevelopmental diseases such as intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder or brain malformations. After this finding, they use animal models to recapitulate the human disease and observe the differences and the molecular mechanisms of development. The lab specifically looks at intracellular signaling deficits that could be targeted for the development of novel therapies.
Dr. Kimberley McAllister
University of California, Davis
Kimberley McAllister is the Director at the Center for Neuroscience at UC Davis under the College of Biological Sciences. She received her PhD in Neurobiology from Duke University. Her laboratory studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms of synapse formation in the developing cerebral cortex as well as the role for immune molecules in the brain during development and disease. Kimberley focuses on Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Development and Plasticity, and Medical Neuroscience.
Dr. Eric Morrow
Eric M. Morrow received his PhD in genetics and neurodevelopment at Harvard University. He received his MD degree from the Health Science Training Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. While at Harvard Medical School he conducted clinical and scientific training in neurology and psychiatry. Before coming to Brown University, he was the Massachusetts General Hospital Rappaport Neuroscience Scholar and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. His current research focuses on genetic perturbations that underlie disorders of human cognitive development. He currently directs the Developmental Disorders Genetics Research Program (DDGRP) at Brown University.
Dr. Stewart Mostofsky
Kennedy Kreiger Institute
Dr. Stewart Mostofsky completed his MD through the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute-Albany Medical College, where he won the Jack Spitalny Prize for exceptional achievement in pediatrics. He then went on to internships and residencies in pediatrics and pediatric neurology at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Mostofsky’s current research investigates the biological basis of developmental disorders using both structural and functional imaging techniques and experimental neurobehavioral paradigms, including motor, sensory/perceptual, and cognitive testing. Dr. Mostofsky’s research with children with autism is focused on examination of motor function. He has made significant contributions to identifying the common factors underlying motor impairments in autism and how anomalous patterns of motor learning in autism may contribute to impaired social and communicative deficits.
Dr. Damon Page
The Scripps Research Institute
Damon Page received his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Cambridge. His laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute focuses on understanding how the components that make up the cellular structure of the brain are generated and assemble into functional circuits that underlie behavior and cognition. His lab focuses on the understanding of the biology of how risk factors for autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders influence the development of cell types and circuits underlying behavior and cognition. He uses a range of techniques including mouse genetics, histology, molecular cell biology, cell culture, genomics, informatics, pharmacology, imaging, and behavioral phenotyping.
Dr. Celine Saulnier
Neurodevelopmental assessment and Consultation Services
Celine Saulnier earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Neuropsychology from the University of Connecticut. She then conducted her postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine. She then became the training and clinical director of the Yale Autism Program. After that she was recruited to the Marcus Autism Center and Emory University School of Medicine to build a large-scale clinical research program. Since then, she founded Neurodevelopmental Assessment and Consulting Services (NACS) which is a center for research-reliable diagnostic assessments, reevaluation at transitional times and support and recommendations for individuals, their families, and support networks for Autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
Dr. Jonathan Sebat
UC San Diego
Jonathan Sebat is a leader in the field of psychiatric genetics and an expert in the genomic analysis of disease by Whole Genome Sequencing. The Sebat Laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular basis of neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism. He is specifically interested in the role of copy number variants. His approach is to apply advanced mutation detection methods to identify mutations that confer high risk of disease.
Dr. Volney Sheen
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Dr. Volney Sheen completed his PhD from Harvard University in Neuroscience and completed his MD from Harvard Medical school. Dr. Volney Sheen has a specific interest in developmental abnormalities in the cerebral cortex. In the Volney Sheen Laboratory, there are two central areas of investigation including generation and characterization of ventricular zone-derived human neural stem cells from developmental disorders of the central nervous system. Another area of interest includes the study of inherited disorders of cortical development.
Dr. Qian-Quan Sun
University of Wyoming
Qian-Quan Sun runs the Sun Lab which focuses on Neural Development and Learning. His research specifically focuses on the connections of neuronal networks which are fine tuned during critical periods of brain development and maladaptively reorganized in neurological diseases. They want to understand how environmental and genetic factors affect the refinement of neuronal connections and dynamically shape and misshape the behavior that the neuronal network subserve.
Dr. Sara Jane Webb
Seattle Children’s Research Institute
Sara Jane Webb completed her PhD from the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development in Child Psychology. Her current research focuses on the functional neurobiology and development of information processing in individuals with autism spectrum disorders, other developmental disorders, and typical development. She currently is using EEG, event-related potentials (ERPs), eye-tracking, and behavioral measures to study how children encode, store, and retrieve information about visual images such as faces, and how these processes are impacted by developmental disruptions.
Funding invitations sent to the following institutions:
- Precision Cell Based Therapy for seizure and autism in Dravet syndrome
- The use of high-dimensional EEG in the early identification of autism in primary care
- Striatal Circuit Dysfunction in Autism
- Identifying Genes That Contribute to Dup15q Autism Using a Human Stem Cell Model
- Emotional Expressivity in young children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Functional Connectivity of the Amygdala in Autism
- Biomarker-Driven Pharmacological Treatment for ASD
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in ASD for Sensory Over Responsivity
2020 Community Grant Recipients
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute
This project is to develop the Philadelphia Autism Network Self Advocates (PAN-S) webinar, with topics focusing on financial planning, relationships/sexuality, transportation, and employment. The Philadelphia Autism Network is a part of Philly Autism Project. The role of Drexel’s Policy and Analytics Center will be to support self-advocates to facilitate the development of the PAN-S workshop series, while utilizing data from a number of sources to contribute to content development on important topics and deliver it in an accessible format. Self-advocates working on the workshop will be part of the project to transition barriers into action drawing upon personal experience. The workshop series will discuss complex topics with information from self-advocates tailored for individuals with autism.
The Elwyn Foundation
Elwyn Early Learning Services is the sole provider of early intervention evaluation services presently serving 7,500 children ages 3-5 with autism, developmental delays or related disabilities. During the pandemic services had to shut down and since then 98% of ELS families have continued via video or telephone conferencing, which introduced a new expense of translation or interpretation services due to higher parental and care giver involvement for families who do not speak English as their first language. Throughout the pandemic, Elwyn has made transitions to the tele-intervention model. This model includes weekly individual consultation via telephone or videoconference with the parent or caregiver of the enrolled child. Typical modes of evaluation and service provision rely heavily on interactions between provider and child. In the current scenario, however, caregivers receive coaching, modeling, instruction, feedback, and reinforcement from the provider. Effective communication is absolutely essential under this model, and translation and interpretation services are necessary to maintain the quality of services while operating remotely in a diverse city like Philadelphia.
The Center at the Hampton House
The funding will be designated for the Get Your Future in Focus program. In April 2018, the Center at Hampton House was accepted as a Pre-Employment Transition Services provider by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). The Get Your Future in Focus program is a customizable 10-week curriculum for Workplace Readiness and Life Skills. The program can be modified to accommodate each school’s needs. They conduct outreach to schools in Montgomery, Philadelphia, and Bucks County to hold transition services planning meetings. They work with their individuals to learn about workplace readiness, how to manage their income, and employer expectations. They are aiming to bridge the gap for individuals who do not have access to quality workplace readiness training. They use a pre- and post-assessment at the beginning and the end of classes. They also will collaborate with Penn State Abington and Gwynedd Mercy College for student volunteers and have relationships with local stores and schools for job placement opportunities.
CHOP – Center for Autism Research
Funding provided directly from Huddle Up for Autism event, “The Center for Autism Research (CAR) coordinates and supports research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). CAR’s goals are to identify the underlying causes of ASD in order to develop effective treatments, and support individuals with ASD and their families by providing evidence-based resources and education.”
Kinney Center for Autism
The Kinney Center is receiving funds for technology needs for their ASPIRE program as they begin to offer the services outside of Saint Joseph’s University for the first time. The upgrade also helps ASPIRE students transition from college to the workforce. SJU’s ASPIRE ( (Autism Support Promoting Inclusive and Responsive Education) program has a completion rate of 83%, which is 13% higher than the average. The ASPIRE program is designed to support college students on the autism spectrum as they transition from secondary education to post-secondary education. During the pandemic, the ASPIRE team quickly transitioned to a virtual format, finding that some students work better virtually than in person. The technological updates will address two main challenges: effective engagement of remote students into on-site skills classes and the provision of real work experience remotely. The main technological upgrades will allow for more interaction which provides effective online assessment in conjunction with the provision of real work experience remotely.
The Precision Institute
The Precision Institute assists individuals with autism and developmental disabilities to overcome employment barriers and prepare for entry-level IT and business positions. The funding will be used to redesign their work-readiness program in response to COVID-19 with traditional in-person and hybrid programs. The Precision Institute was formerly a function within The Precisionists, Inc’s business model. In 2018, they determined that to assess, train and potentially employ the greatest number of neurodiverse individuals it was necessary to spin off the Assessment and Training function into the nonprofit that they are today. Upon successful competition of the Work Readiness program, The Precisionists Inc. hires 80-90% of candidates placing them in supported positions.
Valley Forge Educational Services
Valley Forge Educational Services has evolved into educational, recreational, and employment-related programs for people with special needs. One of their programs, which launched in 2017, is Customized Workforce Solutions (CWS). The goal is to provide career exploration, job finding and coaching. CWS works with local businesses to integrate and support individuals with special needs. Currently, CWS partners with over 100 area businesses in participants’ home communities to connect, recruit and train employees with disabilities. In 2014, the concept began for a “Post 21” Strategic Plan to establish a business and launch the employment services. CWS served approximately 80-100 individuals in the last two years. CWS measures and tracks five key program outcomes, including service hours, participants earning minimum wage or higher, 85 participant satisfaction surveys, number of participants employed six months or greater, and number of employers engaged with the program.
Variety-The Children’s Charity
Variety Club is putting the funding towards VarietyWorks, which is the workforce development model designed to help individuals with cognitive disabilities ages 14-24 gain meaningful employment, specifically by expanding its vocational Farm to Table programming year-round at the institution. The program is addressing three unmet needs currently: 1) providing individualized training opportunities to build work readiness skills for in-school adolescents before they turn 21; 2) bridging the transition age of 21 to 21+ when youth with disabilities and their families must learn to navigate adult systems post-education; and 3) the ability to provide a fluid program that adapts to the individual’s needs. The model of VarietyWorks is if the client is available for community employment, the individual can participate in mobile café, farm to table or job coaching. This funding allowed Variety to expand the Farm to Table programming from a 7-week summer vocational program, to year-round.
West Chester University
This project will be a partnership between Neurodiversity at Work WorkGroup and D-CAP at West Chester University to build a website of resources to link neurodiverse individuals, educators, employers, and service providers to meaningful employment. Currently, there is no centralized place to find information for this space. The four main groups to utilize this will be neurodiverse candidates, employers, service providers and university support programs. The vision of this project is to provide a single site to find all the educational opportunities, employment opportunities and support opportunities for neurodiverse talent. The links to these sites will provide a less complex path to information that can be overwhelming to our students and candidates. Part of the team building the website will be undergraduate students with autism who are members or alumni of Dub-C Autism Program (D-CAP) studying computer science or a related field.
Ken’s Krew Inc.
Ken’s Krew provides job placement training and support for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities in competitive employment. Vocational coordinators asses, coach and support the individual and the employer. Ken’s Krew needs to update their current online accounts to remain successful in the current virtual world. With the stay-at-home order, it was necessary to maintain contact with over 100 workers to provide trainings on Covid-19, cover continually changing workplace policies and safety procedures, customer service-based training, coping skills, and social skills while in isolation. Individuals could take a leave of absence from their job, but many stayed as the main corporate partner, Home Depot, was deemed essential. Many individuals have enjoyed the online program format and vocational coordinators are also processing new applicants in a virtual format.