Jefferson University Hospitals

Center for Autism & Neurodiversity

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Patient and mother speaking to Wendy Ross, MD

A patient and his mother (left) work with Wendy J. Ross, MD, (right) Director of Jefferson Health's Center for Autism and Neurodiversity.

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At the Center for Autism and Neurodiversity, our mission is to be a thought leader and creative force behind interdisciplinary solutions that enable individuals with autism and other neurodiverse conditions to participate more fully in the world at large through the development of a new universal design.

We take into account the continuation of care over time, and the patient's role in the family, school, and community. We are searching for interventions that best suit the needs of our patients. 

In the News: How Quiet Headphones & Visual Guides Help Autistic Patients get Better Health Care

CNN spoke to Dr. Wendy Ross, Director of Jefferson Health's Center for Autism and Neurodiversity, about her goal to create a more accessible health care experience for people with autism.

Wendy Ross

Approach to Care

We are changing the health care environment to create a universal design that welcomes everyone. The Center for Autism and Neurodiversity is initiating a  transformative model which has several components to make your experience an individual one, including:

  • Training for our Jefferson Health personnel so they have the tools to understand and implement the best inclusion methods for those with autism and related issues. 
  • Educational materials for community settings (i.e., schools, work places, and housing centers) and directly for those with autism. When everyone is prepared, outcomes are better.
  • Programs and experiences that support a friendly environment for all. We create site-specific programs that embed inclusion into the culture of health care offices so that your routine check-ups are routine for us, too.
  • Consultations with our staff to begin implementing better designs of our offices to ensure our patients and their families are comfortable. 
  • Measuring outcomes so we may continually improve our process and create best practices for anyone who requires a visit to our hospitals, outpatient offices, imaging centers and more.

Research & Education 

Visit the Autism Lab within the Department of Occupational Therapy at Thomas Jefferson University for more on research and education.

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about the Center for Autism and Neurodiversity, please call 215-955-7925.

Center Leadership


Wendy J. Ross, MD

Director, Center for Autism and Neurodiversity

View Dr. Ross' Profile »


Sabra Townsend

Director of Operations, Center for Autism and Neurodiversity

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Sabra Townsend is the Director of Operations for The Center for Autism and Neurodiversity.  Her position is multi-faceted in the field of autism services: directing Center operations, clinical and strategic development, training, and grants management.

Prior to Jefferson, she worked in public health, focusing on community service to children with special needs.  Most recently, focusing on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, she directed an AmeriCorps national service program, managed medical and nursing students who performed basic health assessments, and provided training to both parents and professionals on topics including special education and everyday strategies for improved life outcomes.

Her work experience includes human factors engineering and technical aviation publications at the Federal Aviation Administration as well as community coordinating at the Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  In addition to consulting in the human services field, Ms. Townsend has presented at numerous conferences on issues affecting people with special needs.  Topics have included sensory regulation, special education laws and practical approaches to living everyday with autism.  Sabra served as group leader on the statewide PA Autism Task Force and works with the city, state and private organizations to improve services people with special health care needs.  Recent publications topics include Engaging University Partners in HealthMeet®  - assessments for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Honored with the Small Miracles award by the Center for Autism in 2012.   Sabra earned her BS in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University with a concentration in Operations Management.