Debra Dunn, Esq

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Consulting Director for Strategic Partnerships and Development

Deb is a consultant to the Center for Autism Research (CAR). She was initially hired as CAR's Public Relations Director and Recruitment Coordinator when CAR first began in 2008. Later she was promoted to Director of Outreach and Study Recruitment. As a consultant, she continues to provide support for education, outreach, and development projects at CAR and CHOP, particularly the CAR Autism Roadmap and educational programs for transition to adulthood. 


While an employee at CAR, Deb was responsible for developing and coordinating all of CAR's community outreach activities, and she directed CAR's autismMatch program that recruits and matches families interested in research to specific projects at CAR and at other regional research institutions. Deb was actively involved in planning and implementing CAR's Next Steps program (three sets of educational workshops for parents and professionals), CAR's Distinguished Lecture Series, the CAR Autism Roadmap, CAR's outreach to area pediatricians, and a yearly autism awareness and fundraising event with the Philadelphia Eagles called Huddle Up for Autism. Additionally, she was CAR's liaison to the Public Relations Department at CHOP and to CHOP's Development Department (The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation).


Deb is a past member of CHOP's Autism Integration Committee and has served as a board member of ASCEND Group (a local autism advocacy organization) and the Autism Society of America Greater Philadelphia Chapter. She also was a member of the Right to Education Task Force of Delaware County, where she led a team assisting the Pennsylvania Department of Education in monitoring special education programs in Delaware County, PA.


Prior to her work at CAR, Deb was an attorney for a litigation firm in Philadelphia. She continues to use her experience as an attorney to help parents understand and become effective advocates for themselves. She recently contributed six articles related to education and advocacy to The Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders, a comprehensive reference available online and in print (Editor-in-chief, Fred R. Volkmar) and has conducted workshops on parents' rights throughout the special education process. 


Deb is also the parent of a young adult diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, which infuses her work with the perspective of a parent living with autism at home. She recently participated as a parent reviewer for the American Academy of Pediatrics Council of Children with Disabilities autism subcommittee, which is charged with reviewing and revising the Autism Toolkit in use by pediatricians and families living with autism.