T. A. Meridian McDonald (she/her/they/them)

Research Statement

My research focuses on autistic flourishing.  My is research is focused on supporting Autistic Flourishing through several different areas of research. You can learn more about my research at http://www.spectrumforlife.com.  My research lab Spectrum for Life (S4L) is investigating how the huge combination of strengths and co-occurring conditions make up multiple autism(s). We are investigating the different ways that autism(s) present in adulthood. We are also investigating how different factors (financial, social, health, sensory, etc) help or prevent autistic flourish.

In order to best understand the goals, needs, and challenges of adults on the spectrum, I take a lifespan developmental view of the autism spectrum which is situated within systems, such as families, education systems, and community systems.  As such, my previous research has examined transition goals of, and interventions for, adolescents on the spectrum, as well as family dynamics with young children.  I have published a unifying theory of autism that explores the intersection between autistic strengths and challenges, co-occurring physical and mental health conditions, and the social construction of disability.  My work provides a parsimonious explanation for the heterogeneity of autism- indeed, autism(s). I endorse a neurodiversity paradigm that flexibly considers ways autisms constitute differences, impairments, and/or both- as well as ways that society marginalizes autisms.

Education and Training

In addition to my BS (psychology) and two MS (counseling psychology; non-terminal developmental psychology) degrees, I was granted the honor of designing an interdisciplinary PhD program focused on autism. This curricula, coupled with cross-discipline research projects, has allowed me to examine the nature of autistic development through multiple fields, expert guidance, family insight, and the perspective of individuals on the spectrum.  This multifaceted viewpoint has provided a more holistic view into the complexity of development on the autism spectrum.

This interdisciplinary training has been further developed through participation the Maternal and Children’s Health (MCH)/Leadership on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program- an interdisciplinary, team based, training program for leaders working with children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. I was also accepted into a second-year of advanced traineeship which allowed me to actualize my own leadership goals within the autism spectrum professional, research, and self-advocate communities in Wisconsin.


I am a multiracial, multiply-neurodivergent (autism; production dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysphasia; etc) and disabled (e.g., Ehlers Danlos, immune, etc), queer, first-generation college graduate/academic from a multiplex family (multiple autistic family members). Both of my parents are multiracial and disabled and my mother was an undocumented immigrant. I experienced poverty, housing and education insecurity, trauma, and other ACES in childhood, exited the K-12 education system before completing 9th grade, and experienced homelessness for several years before and after attaining my GED at age 20. I raised my multiply disabled son as a single parent. More about my bio and path toward becoming a PhD and researcher can be found here: https://www.cccco.edu/About-Us/News-and-Media/California-Community-Colleges-Outlook-Newsletter/citrus-college-autism-researcher

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