A significant area of my research focus has been to analyze the transportation barriers of adults on the autism spectrum through survey research and focus groups. My TRB report in 2010 was the first extensive analysis of transportation issues related to adults on the autism spectrum. The research provides the first in-depth understanding of transportation modes used by the study population. The 2010 survey analysis was conducted from a State survey piloted by the New Jersey Department of Developmental Disabilities that was designed to understand the plethora of issues and concerns among New Jersey adolescents and adults on the spectrum. Due to the impact of the 2010 report, in 2013, the New Jersey Department of Health commissioned me to lead a research team to conduct a scientific survey to provide an in-depth understanding of the needs and barriers of adults on the spectrum who live in New Jersey.
The research is a comprehensive understanding of the barriers and challenges faced in New Jersey. But limitations of the study include that New Jersey is unique in that it is the most densely populated state, has a single transit provider for the entire state, and designated state funds for every county in New Jersey to provide paratransit services for individuals with disabilities and seniors. While many of the results and recommendations are universal, others are unique to New Jersey and may not be applicable elsewhere.
Another area of interest in my research has been to analyze the impact of various autistic characteristics or traits on utilizing multiple modes of transportation. This area of research has allowed for an understanding of how the characteristics can impact independent travel and mobility. I believe it is the first step in developing methodologies to provide support, services, or other accommodations to be studied and developed that will allow for independent travel and mobility for adults on the Autism Spectrum.
The third area of research that I have been working on involves determining the skills needed for an adult on the Autism Spectrum to use ADA complementary paratransit services, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Much of the research on paratransit services has focused on the needs of those with mobility or sensory impairments, not developmental disabilities. I have completed two studies on this topic and am researching a third. My Ph.D. dissertation focused on the ability of adults on the autism spectrum to use ADA paratransit services in New Jersey and to document the impairments. That research involved working with 26 adults on the Autism Spectrum to understand their ability to use paratransit services. Papers related to the dissertation research are forthcoming. My current research involves working with adults on the autism spectrum who are not using paratransit services and testing them on a simulated real-world paratransit trip to document the barriers and aid in determining the support needed. A recruitment video on that study is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/s4Ab-ycP4EY.