Research finds that autism develops differently in girls than boys

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder is an equal opportunity condition, affecting all ethnic and and socioeconomic groups.

Boys, however, are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. Now new research into how Autism affects the brains of boys and girls is highlighting the need for greater understanding of this in order to better match the right treatment for each child.

Kevin Pelphrey, PhD, autism expert at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and UVA’s Brain Institute is the lead research investigator in this new study and he appears on Smart Talk Friday.

Early intervention, and a continuity of care after diagnosis, affords the best opportunity to support healthy development in children and adults with ASD. Joining Smart Talk to discuss how they provide these services are Holly Turner, Director of Advocacy and Laken Wilson, Senior Advocate, both with The Arc of Cumberland & Perry Counties (CPARC)

Smart Talk: Nursing homes facing same challenges as before, but now on top of pandemic

It is no secret that Pennsylvania nursing homes are facing great challenges. Even before the pandemic hit, advocates raised concerns about chronic underfunding and high employee turnover.

Now, as the state moves into the next phase of COVID mitigation and the economy opens up those same advocates ask that nursing homes not be forgotten.

As new residents move into homes, the facilities still struggle to pay for virus mitigation efforts like testing and protective equipment.

Appearing on Smart Talk Thursday to offer their perspective are Adam Marles, President and CEO of LeadingAge Pennsylvania, a statewide association of providers, along with James F. Bernardo, President and CEO, Presbyterian Senior Living in Dillsburg.

For more on long-term care issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

The Ancient art of Falconry

The art of falconry is more than four thousand years old, and in the United States the first falconry club formed in Philadelphia in 1934.

The process behind raising birds of prey for sport received local attention recently when a baby great horned owl was removed from its Mount Joy park nest by a licensed falconer.

Michael Kuriga, President of the Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust joins Smart Talk Thursday to offer insight to the ancient sport and the controversy behind removing the baby owl.

Pa.’s infrastructure in need of an upgrade?

The need to improve, upgrade and modernize the nation’s infrastructure is an issue that most Americans and elected officials from both parties can agree on.

The American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Report Card gave the U.S. infrastructure a grade of C-. That’s actually up from a D+, but overall 11 of the 17 categories graded got D’s.

The ASCE’s report says 43% of U.S. roads are poor or mediocre and there’s a water main break every two minutes across the country.

The last report for Pennsylvania was in 2018 and it too gave the state a C-. Have there been improvements and what parts of infrastructure need to be repaired or modernized?

President Joe Biden has proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan and while there is bipartisan support for infrastructure, there are objections to how much Biden’s plan cost and what he calls infrastructure.

Wednesday’s Smart Talk looks at Pennsylvania’s infrastructure needs.

Appearing on the program are Stephanie Slocum, American Society of Civil Engineers Central Pennsylvania representative and founder of Engineers Rising LLC , Melissa Batula, Acting Executive Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Felicia Dell, Director, York County Planning Commission.

Smart Talk: Preventing child abuse hinges on trained observers

There are nearly six million children reported each year for suspected child abuse in the United States and an average of five die each day from the abuse or neglect.

Preventing child abuse in communities starts with observant and trained reporters.

There are certain people and professions that are required by law to report suspected abuse. These are typically those who have access and can observe and interact with children. Teachers, childcare workers, and medical providers are obvious examples.

They are the greatest asset in the fight against child abuse. Active reporting, as early as possible, allows authorities to step in to protect the child and investigate the allegations.

PennState Health Center for the Protection of Children has developed an online training program called iLookOut for Child Abuse, which will serve as a national model for mandatory reporters.

Dr. Benjamin Levi, MD, Ph.D., a Pediatrician at PennState Health Children’s Hospital and the director of the iLookOut for Child Abuse project and Dr. Lori Frasier, MD, Child Abuse Pediatrics and director of the Center for the Protection of Children at PennState Health appear on Smart Talk to share information about training mandatory reporters.

Suspect Abuse? Report it! Call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

For more on public health issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Solar energy boom leaves communities at crossroads

The demand for green energy is only increasing as the world looks for more sustainable energy options. Solar power is one such option experiencing significant growth. In fact, Pennsylvania is on the cusp of a solar development boom.

There are currently more than 350 solar projects proposed in the commonwealth, in various stages of planning. Some of these projects are meeting considerable opposition in the communities where they will be built.

Rachel McDevitt, StateImpact PA reporter, is covering the controversy, along with some of the misinformation about solar power and she appears on Smart Talk Tuesday.

Smart Talk: People with disabilities should be included in public health discussion

The disparate impact of the coronavirus on minority populations has been well-documented throughout the course of the pandemic. The consequences faced by nursing homes and to the elderly have also received attention.

Pennsylvanians with disabilities, many living at home or in congregate care settings, have never received the kind of attention during the crisis that other groups have and an area scholar is highlighting the need for this to change.

Prof. Emeritus Dennis Downey, Ph.D., History, Millersville University, authored Pennhurst and the Struggle for Disability Rights,” and he argues this group, in particular, needs the attention of public health advocates. Professor Downey appears on Smart Talk Friday.

For more on public health issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living, as mentioned by a Smart Talk listener.

Roots for Boots grassroots effort seeks to “restore hope”

An unexpected career change came to Christy Lucas through a desire to help local veterans find hope in their future and to offer help for whatever they might need.

Christy Lucas founded Roots for Boots to serve area veterans and their families and she appears on Smart Talk Friday to share the inspiration behind her career change.

Smart Talk: Floyd verdict surprises those who have little faith in justice system

After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday of killing George Floyd, by putting his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last spring, much of the nation felt a sense of satisfaction that justice had been done.

Some saw the verdict as a turning point that could lead to changes in policing. Many wondered whether police may be held accountable if an officer is responsible for the death of an African-American. Others saw a unique case where a man in custody died, but the whole episode being captured on video made the difference.

Another reaction was that many were surprised that a jury found Chauvin guilty on three charges, even with the video evidence, because historically police officers charged would be acquitted — especially of the most serious charges.

Thursday’s Smart Talk focuses on the reactions and the way forward after the Chauvin verdict.

Appearing on the program are Sandra Thompson, York area attorney and a Vice President of the York NAACP, along with Chad Dion Lassiter, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

PA Lawmakers working to bridge the partisan divide

Acrimony in politics is nothing new, in fact it plays out in policy meetings, decisions and newscasts everyday.

A newly formed Pennsylvania One Caucus is bringing together lawmakers from both sides of the isle to attempt to change relationships for the better.

Republican Representative Thomas Mehaffie of Dauphin County and Democratic Representative Jared Solomon of Philadelphia County appear on Smart Talk Thursday to detail their expectations for the new PA One Caucus.

Smart Talk: Is legal marijuana in PA’s future?

Two recent polls found that close to 60% of Pennsylvanians support making marijuana legal for recreational purposes. Pollsters from both surveys say support has grown significantly in the last decade.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is behind legalization and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has become the face of making pot legal in Pennsylvania.

However, Republicans in the legislature have said no or that it’s not a priority.

Opposition is no longer universal, though. Republican State Senator Dan Laughlin of Erie County is co-sponsor of a bill to make marijuana legal for recreational purposes. Sen. Laughlin appears on Wednesday’s Smart Talk.

Even though legalizing and taxing marijuana could raise millions of dollars (a 2018 Auditor General report estimated $581 million annually) there is significant opposition from those who see it as a gateway drug and not as harmless as proponents say.

Jeff Hanley, Executive Director, Commonwealth Prevention Alliance joins us on Smart Talk, as well.

Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have begun the legalization process and it appears the dominoes are falling around us.

Sarah Anne Hughes, an investigative reporter with Spotlight PA is on Smart Talk to provide a rundown.

Smart Talk: Poll finds majority of Pennsylvanians remain concerned about public health situation

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

The ninth annual Muhlenberg College Public Health Program survey results were released last week and reveal how Pennsylvanians feel about a wide variety of public health issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and issues relating to it, dominates the poll and the results offer a view of public opinion on how the health emergency is being handled.

This survey also asks respondents how they feel President Biden and Governor Wolf are handling the pandemic response.

Christopher Borick, Ph.D., is a Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and he appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to analyze the survey results.

For more on public health issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Taxpayers on the hook for election lawsuit bills

At least a dozen lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania following President Joe Biden’s victory in the the 2020 General Election.

The Pennsylvania Department of State paid law firms over $3.4 million for work on election-related lawsuits filed before and after election day by any group or political party, according to invoices obtained by WITF through a Right-to-Know request.

All but one of the suits brought by former President Donald Trump and his allies, before and after the election, failed. Yet they accounted for more than $1.9 million of the overall cost incurred by the DOS.

Julia Agos is a reporter and host of All Things Considered for WITF. She filed a report outlining the cost to taxpayers and joins Smart Talk Tuesday to share those details.

Sexual assault awareness takes on many forms

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Unlike some other awareness campaigns, the issues that get attention during this month have grown and expanded as society and technology changes.

Sexual assault awareness in the past may have focused on rape or just on women. Today, there is a broader discussion of sexual violence that includes child sexual assault, date rape, sexual assaults on college campuses, same sex sexual violence, sexting online without permission and sexual harassment.

Monday’s Smart Talk is centered on these and other issues with our guests Jim Willshier, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Lily Duarte-Evans, Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Services Program Director, YWCA Carlisle.

If you are a victim of sexual assault and need immediate assistance, please contact our toll free hotline at 1-888-772-7227 or find your local rape crisis center.

Safe Secure Kids provides free resources to help communicate with children about respect and consent.


Child sexual abuse and other traumatic childhood events can have a profound impact on the lives of survivors.

Abuse survivor, former elementary school principal and pastor Lyn Barrett unfortunately knows from experience. Ms. Barrett suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. She tells her story in an upcoming book Crazy: In Search of a Narrative and a new eBook, DID Unpacked: A Parable.

Lyn Barrett appears on Monday’s Smart Talk.

Join Lyn Barrett on Tuesday, April 20 for a longer conversation with Safe Communities. 

Smart Talk: Radar guns for Pa. law enforcement?

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country where municipal police departments can not by law use radar to enforce speed limits.

Local police utilize painted stripes on sections of roadways, stopwatches or have to calculate a vehicle’s speed to issue a speeding citation.

Pennsylvania State Police have been using radar for more than 50 years so it’s not new technology.

However, there’s legislation in Harrisburg that would allow municipal police to use radar with some caveats.

Objections to allowing local police to use radar include it will be used to generate revenue for local municipalities and that speed limits are already set too low. The proposed bill would limit revenue from speeding.

Republican Rep. Greg Rothman of Cumberland County is the prime sponsor of the radar bill and joins us on Friday’s<em><strong> Smart Talk</strong></em>.
<h2>Planning for end of life decisions has big impact on families</h2>
Friday is National Healthcare Decisions Day. It is a time to consider end of life issues – specifically on ensuring people have established advance directives so families knows their loved-one’s preferences before they’re unable to speak for themselves.

Dr. Lauren Jody “L J” Van Scoy, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center says many people have never discussed or finalized directives, which leaves their families often not knowing what to do if a decision must be made about end-of-life care. She appears on Friday’s <em><strong>Smart Talk</strong></em>.



[box]<strong>Pa. Republican lawmakers and the U.S. Capitol attack</strong>
As part of WITF’s commitment to standing with facts, and because the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we are marking elected officials’ connections to the insurrection. <em><a href=”” data-auth=”NotApplicable” data-linkindex=”0″>Read more about this commitment</a></em>.
In stories, we will use language that identifies lawmakers who took at least one of these actions: signed on to a Texas lawsuit aimed at invalidating Pennsylvania’s election; signed on to a state House or a state Senate letter urging Congressional representatives to object to or delay certification; and voted against certification. Those actions supported President Donald Trump’s <a href=”″ data-auth=”NotApplicable” data-linkindex=”1″>election-fraud lie</a>, causing many of his supporters to believe incorrectly that the election had been stolen, and that led to an assault on the U.S. Capitol.
The list of lawmakers is <a href=”” data-auth=”NotApplicable” data-linkindex=”2″>here</a>.
<strong>Republican Rep. Greg Rothman, who is appearing on Friday’s<em> Smart Talk,</em> signed the letter asking that the 2020 election results not be certified or to be delayed.</strong>[/box]