AIR-P Presents: Mind the NIH-Funding Gap: Structural Discrimination in Physical Health-Related Research for Cognitively Able Autistic Adults

AIR-P Presents: Mind the NIH-Funding Gap: Structural Discrimination in Physical Health-Related Research for Cognitively Able Autistic Adults

Tuesday, April 18, 2023
4:00pm ET - 5:00pm ET
Location: Zoom

Webinar Description

In this webinar, Dr. McDonald will discuss the lack of NIH-funded research focused on physical health disparity conditions in autistic adults.  Using data from the NIH RePorter (a publicly available government spending transparency tool), we used 30 major health disparity terms (e.g., insomnia, cardiovascular disease) paired with the terms "autism" and "adult" to investigate grants funded by the NIH on these conditions.  In four decades, the NIH had not funded a single grant aimed with improving any of the 30 health disparity conditions in autistic adults. Only four grants met criteria for inclusion and these only generally examined physical health disparity conditions (e.g., investigation of electronic health records). We describe three process nodes that contribute to structural discrimination in grant funding for studies on physical health in cognitively-able autistic adults.  These nodes include a) explicitly discriminatory funding priorities; b) discrimination in the more refined set of funding priorities as described by program officers and directors; and c) a culture of NIH-funded academia that discourages early career researchers from investigating, reporting, and decrying structural disability discrimination in NIH funding.  


Dr. T. A. Meridian McDonald is a multiply neurodivergent and autistic researcher who designed and earned her interdisciplinary PhD focused solely on autism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the Principal Investigator of the Spectrum for Life (S4L) Lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Neurology. She is also a research investigator with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and a member affiliate of the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. Dr. McDonald's work is focused on optimizing Autistic Flourishing through increasing understanding of a) autistic abilities and challenges; b) autistic identity and negotiation of stigma; c) autistic learning styles and motivation; and d) autistic self-determination.  Dr. McDonald also adapts physical health related interventions to better match autistic social and learning styles. In 2020, Dr. McDonald published her unifying theory of autism, the Broader Autism Phenotype Constellations-Disability Matrix Paradigm (BAPCO-DMAP) which describes how six autistic strengths can create the challenges and diagnostic criteria met by autists and how the (known or unknown) presence of co-occurring conditions can increase these challenges. Through individual and collaborative interdisciplinary research projects, she takes a life course approach to autism research and has examined factors across the lifespan, from toddler to adulthood, to increase understanding of development and outcomes for Autists. She is interested in better understanding individual differences in the wide range of autistic perspectives, experiences, and outcomes through interlinked, cross-sequential online studies (Spectrum for Life-Interconnected Surveys). 

Please Note

  • CART captioning will be provided. For additional disability accommodations please email Elizabeth Schnieder at [email protected] two weeks prior to the event with name of event and accommodation preference in your response.
  • There is no cost for this webinar.
  • CEUs are not offered for this webinar.
  • This webinar will be held on the Zoom Platform. You can test your connection with Zoom before joining the meeting here.
  • This webinar will be archived available on the AUCD Webinar Library.