Health Education and Relationships through Theater (HEART), a research study led by Philadelphia Area Sexual Health Initiative (PASHI) in partnership with the Research & Evaluation Group at PHMC, is currently recruiting young people (age 14-19) on the autism spectrum including Asperger’s. The study is designed to evaluate the impact of the HEART program to prevent risky sexual behaviors and to meet the sexual health learning needs of these teens.

The program is designed to teach young people on the autism spectrum how to define and build healthy relationships, understand boundaries, assess romantic feelings, and communicate about this with their partners and trusted adults. The HEART program will use a new version of PALMS (Promoting Awareness Through Live Music and Sound), an intervention developed by PHMC, that uses drama, role play, interactive exercises and participation of a trusted adult to create a dialogue on topics like relationships, self-awareness, communication and how they affect sexual health decisions.

Eligible youth that are screened into the study will participate in three surveys about healthy relationships and sexual health over the course of one year. Youth enrolled in the study will be randomly assigned to either A. only complete the surveys or B. both complete the surveys and attend the PALMS 6-session program over the course of a 3-6 week period at one of our partner locations. All participants will be compensated for their time with a $25.00 gift card for each survey completed. During the final year of the study, the PALMS program will be delivered to those who were enrolled in the study and assigned to complete only surveys.

You can find more information about the curriculum or register to attend a Meet & Greet. If you know of a young person who can benefit, call 844.972.5672 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more. Enroll in a Meet & Greet at HEARTstudy.eventbrite.com.

Questions? Contact Emmy Stup, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Katharine Hemady, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This project is funded by Grant Number 90AP2690-01-00 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Its contents are solely the responsibility of PHMC and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS, ACF.