Philadelphia Autism Project Planning and Implementation Overview

The Philadelphia Autism Project was launched by Philadelphia Councilman-At-Large Dennis M. O’Brien in 2014 to address the growing need for local resources for individuals with autism and their families.


Autism impacts individuals of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 68 children meet criteria for autism. The 2014 Pennsylvania Census Report identified over 4,167 individuals in Philadelphia County with autism receiving services; more than double the previously documented number. The majority of these individuals are between the ages of 5-17, with the number of adults over 21 years old increasing as the population ages.

The Philadelphia Autism Project seeks to better understand and address the diverse needs of this growing population and ensure Philadelphia maintains its status as a top city for people living with autism and their families.

Planning Phase

The first citywide initiative of its kind started with a partnership with Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Then, a select leadership team helped identify stakeholders, including self-advocates, family members, policy makers, researchers, service providers and others who met in three phases of working meetings. The working meetings focused on: defining where we are today and creating a vision for the future, identifying needs and creating priority solutions, and establishing timelines and indicators of success. In the first meeting, stakeholders identified 10 themes for the project. During the second meeting, stakeholders were organized into groups based on these 10 themes and created initiatives for the project. In the third and final meeting, stakeholders voted on the 100+ initiatives generated and ranked areas of highest need.

Initiative Implementation Phase

Stakeholders identified better connectivity to resources and outreach to underserved communities as top priorities. Several initiatives are underway to meet those objectives.

This online resource hub you are visiting today, which is housed on the ASERT website, gives Philadelphians access to city specific resources as well as resources available to all Pennsylvanians through the ASERT Collaborative.

Seed money is funding efforts to reach underserved and underrepresented populations living with autism in Philadelphia by engaging in community grass roots work to address the needs identified by the Philadelphia Autism Project.

learn more about all projects from the Philadelphia Autism Project