T. A. Meridian McDonald

Research Statement

My research focuses on outcomes for adults on the autism spectrum.  Previous research reveals these adults struggle with attaining, and retaining, postsecondary education and employment.  Further, many also struggle with independent living, social relationships, and psychological health.  Several factors predict long-term outcomes for individuals on the spectrum.  These factors include co-morbid intellectual disability, gender family socioeconomic status, and social skills among other factors.  Yet, even for those whom the best outcomes are predicted, there is still considerable variation in the actual attainment of positive postsecondary outcomes.  My research examines what other factors beyond socio-economics and intellectual ability account for variability in postsecondary outcomes.  As an example, stigma may influence success by shaping identity and activating stereotype threat.

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.

Education and Training

In addition to my BS and MS in psychology, as a graduate student, 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.


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