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Autism Spectrum Disorder

What we do

Our research explores the changes related to age and gender in older adults with autism, focusing on both strengths and vulnerabilities. Additionally, we extend behavioral interventions to address challenges such as depression, anxiety, quality of life and social communication issues for individuals across different age groups. The team places a strong emphasis on education and training, offering learning opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students in various programs with clinical training for students studying speech-language pathology. We collaborate with the Employment Assistance and Social Engagement program (EASE) and participate in the Interdisciplinary Multicultural Professional Autism Clinical Training (IMPACT) training grant. This grant is led by Drs. Rotheram-Fuller and Scherer, to provide specialized education and clinical experiences for students in speech-language pathology and special education with an emphasis on autism spectrum disorder and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education.

Our team leads

B. Blair Braden, Ph.D.

B. Blair Braden, Ph.D.

Team Co-Lead

Head of Research

B. Blair Braden is an associate professor in the College of Health Solutions and director of the Autism and Brain Aging Laboratory. She received her doctorate in behavioral neuroscience (psychology) from ASU in 2012. She completed her postdoctoral training in neuroimaging and neuropsychology at Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. The Autism Brain Aging Laboratory is pioneering research on age-related changes in older adults with autism, emphasizing sex differences through a distinctive longitudinal study examining cognitive and brain aging.

Maria V. Dixon, SLP

Maria V. Dixon, SLP

Team Co-Lead

Head of Education

With over 25 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist, Maria Dixon has dedicated her career to helping children and adults with communication disorders, particularly those with autism spectrum disorders. She has provided direct assessment and intervention services for children and young adults with ASD, working closely with their families to support their communication needs. She is a co-founder of the Employment Assistance and Social Engagement program. This interdisciplinary initiative, between the Fulton Schools of Engineering and the College of Health Solutions, offers support to engineering students with ASD throughout their academic journey and transition into the workforce.

Nicole Matthews, Ph.D.

Nicole Matthews, Ph.D.

Team Co-Lead

Head of Community Involvement

Dr. Matthews’ research program includes multiple lines of research with a broad goal of improving the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Her recent research includes: (1) development and testing of adaptive functioning and social skills interventions for adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder; (2) the development of novel methods for improving access to autism screening and evaluation, and (3) evaluation of original Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) programs. Dr. Matthews is also the supervisor of the PEERS program at SARRC and is a certified PEERS provider.

Student Involvement

We offer comprehensive training for students in both research and clinical practice. Our Master of Science in communication disorders and Master of Arts in special education with a concentration in autism spectrum disorders programs provide classroom preparation and internship opportunities through the EASE program and research clinical trials.” We also support undergraduate, master's and PhD students in conducting research, including thesis and dissertation work.

Our research-focused programs aim to foster students' development towards their future goals, whether it be pursuing further education or entering the industry. Additionally, we provide support to autistic students in engineering through the EASE program, as well as through group activities previously offered by the Advocating Sun Devils student group. Clinical students gain skills in assessment and intervention for autistic clients, while research students develop expertise in experimental design, data collection, analysis and dissemination.

Our students come from a diverse background including speech and hearing science, neuroscience, exercise and wellness, bioinformatics, engineering and psychology. We plan to continue to recruit from these majors and potentially expand.

Contact our co-leads

Community Partners

We have established relationships with community partners with Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), Barrow Neurological Institute, Translational Genomic Research Institute, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Mayo Clinic, local school districts and community organizations, including the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix.

Where we work

ASU Tempe campus

1151 S Forest Ave
Tempe AZ 85281

Mayo Clinic

13400 E Shea Blvd
Scottsdale AZ 85259

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

445 N 5th St
4th Floor
Phoenix AZ 85004

Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC)

300 N 18th St
Phoenix AZ 85006