Jackie Drake and Alex Parrish-Valliere
Several members of the NRC sitting in a meeting room

The National Research Consortium (NRC) on Mental Health in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MHIDD) held their fourth annual meeting on October 17, 2023 at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Dr. Joan B. Beasley, Director of the NRC and research professor at the University of New Hampshire, welcomed 32 attendees from across the US, as well as partners from Scotland.   

“Collaboration is key for positive, participatory research,” Beasley said. “As we began our fourth year, we welcomed first-time participants and old friends to our annual meeting.” 

The NRC consists of individuals with lived experience, researchers, and providers from over 30 organizations and universities across the US. Our aim is to enhance the quality of life for people with IDD-MH by prioritizing and disseminating best-practice research, while promoting equity through inclusive strength based research practices. 

The NRC is hosted by the National Center for START ServicesTM  at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire with the help of generous contributions by organizations that comprise its board.

The 2023 annual meeting featured speakers on Inclusive Practices in Research and Positive Psychology. The goal was to stimulate discussion about how to foster IDD-MH inclusive positive psychology research as a community.

The Inclusive Practices in Research Panel was moderated by Andrea Caoili, director of research and quality assurance for NCSS. This panel featured: 

  • Jessica Kramer, associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Florida
  • Micah Peace Urquilla, a multiply disabled researcher, community organizer, and self-advocate; research and training assistant at NCSS
  • Jill Jones, Head of Programme at NHS Education for Scotland
  • Doug McConachie, a clinical psychologist, lecturer, and principal educator at NHS Education for Scotland.


  • Tawara Goode, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical Center; Director of the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence and the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental disabilities
  • Richard Chapman, assistant director for disability leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University 
  • Matthew Wappett, Executive Director of the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice at Utah State University.

The Positive Psychology Panel was moderated by Luke Kalb, Chair of the NRC and assistant professor in the Department of Neuropsychology and the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. This panel featured:  

  • Dan Tomasulo, the Academic Director at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute (SMBI) at Teachers College, Columbia University 
  • Sarah Jaser, a pediatric psychologist from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.


  • Andrea Caoili, a licensed clinical social worker with more than 15 years of experience in the field of mental health. She is the Director of Research and Quality Assurance at NCSS and is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Social Work at UNH. 
  • Patricia Wright, the Executive Director of Proof Positive: Autism Wellbeing Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving the wellbeing of autistic people and their families, providers, and communities
  • Micah Peace Urquilla is a multiply disabled researcher, community organizer, and self-advocate from Louisville, KY. 

The event concluded with a presentation on the NRC grant application process and a call for proposals for Utah State’s DDNJ Special Edition. Closing remarks wrapped up a day of insightful discussions and knowledge-sharing. 

The meeting provided a platform for experts to exchange ideas, collaborate, and drive forward research in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. It exemplified the commitment of these organizations and universities to advance the well-being and inclusion of individuals with IDD.

“In the coming months we will award our two-year mini grants, and we are pleased with the number and scope of applications,” Beasley said. “In addition, we look forward to our work with The Developmental Disabilities Network Journal at Utah State University for an upcoming special edition.”

The 32 invited attendees represented several organizations including:

  • University of New Hampshire
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • National Association for the Dully Diagnosed
  • Georgetown University
  • Easter Seals Southern California
  • Lurie Institute for Disability Policy
  • YAI
  • Johns Hopkins/Kennedy Krieger
  • University of Florida
  • National Association for State Mental Health Program Directors
  • National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services
  • USU Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice
  • Spirituality Mind Body Institute MA Program at Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Proof Positive: Autism Wellbeing Alliance
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Tennessee)
  • NHS Education for Scotland
  • The Arc National
  • The Hogg Foundations for Mental Health