We strive to understand how the systems that affect youth on the autism spectrum are best supported to foster positive development and resilience. We currently have projects in the areas of family meals, human sexuality, the transition to adulthood, and collaborative research processes. You can view summaries of our research publications.

Family Meals

Mealtimes are one of the most stressful caregiving activities, but they can also be a source of family resilience. Through observations of mealtimes, interviews with parents, and interviews with autistic children, we have identified a theory of meaningful and functional family meals. We are currently validating this theory through multiple paradigms.

Current Study: Mealtimes on the Spectrum

We are developing an online toolkit which provides information that helps make mealtimes more meaningful and functional.

Human Sexuality

Expressing sexuality is a critical part of well-being, but it can be particularly difficult for youth on the autism spectrum to receive the support they need for healthy sexual development. This line of research builds capacity for comprehensive sexuality education, sexual safety, and sexual risk-reduction.

Current Study: Teaching Sex Ed to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

We have interviewed sex educators throughout the country whose instruction focuses on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We hope to learn more about their instructional practices and the challenges they face.

The Transition to Adulthood

The transition to adulthood is an exciting yet stressful period when young people are expected to become more independent in many life domains. The families of youth on the autism spectrum play a critical role in post-school outcomes. This line of research explores the transition to adulthood, identifies information parents need for success, and determines how to best provide that information.

Current Study: Spartan Transitions

With the LIFE team at Michigan State University, we are working to develop an online parent education program that gives parents the information and skills they need to support their children with the transition to adulthood.

Collaborative Research Processes

The autistic community has asserted that autism research should be done in partnership with autistic people. This line of research explores how to conduct participatory and community-based research. Additionally, this line of research examines the use of qualitative research methods to inform program development.

Current Study: Community Based Participatory Research in the Field of Autism

Woman Studying photos (young, white, tattoo) Photo by Elle Hughes

Community-based participatory research is a collaborative approach to research which involves stakeholder partners in the research process. This project explores the extent to which research on autism uses community-based participatory approaches.

Want to be involved with our research?