Alumni Spotlight – Chelsea Donaldson

After graduating St. Barnabas and later graduating Summa Cum Laude from the IB program at DeLand High, Chelsea went to the University of Oklahoma Honor’s College with two scholarships. Donaldson majored in psychology and minored in Spanish, and became very passionate about Developmental Psychology. While writing her Honor’s Thesis senior year, a serendipitous chain of events led her to the office of a renowned Cambridge University graduate and Autism researcher. Chelsea explains, “this is someone I came to greatly admire.” This teacher became Chelsea’s thesis supervisor for her research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

After graduation, Donaldson moved to South Florida to learn more in the practical world of ASD before going into research. She volunteered at autism centers, shadowed behavior analysts, attended conferences, created a student-run volunteer club at a local university (FAU), and accepted a position at a preschool for children with ASD. After just a few months, Chelsea decided this was the path she would take for her future line of work.

Soon after Donaldson became the recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship and pursued a Master’s in Developmental Psychology at Maastricht University (UM) in the Netherlands. There at UM, she gained valuable knowledge of developmental neuroscience through reading cutting-edge research articles, and is now doing another extensive research project. As the first step in her future career of ASD research, her current study seeks to understand the strongest predictors of having a child with ASD among four psychological traits related to ASD.

Chelsea has asked her former school, St. Barnabas, to help her conduct her research through a simple survey. If you have a child between 4-17 yrs old (with or without autism) and want to participate in this online study, please visit: After completing this study, Chelsea will move back to the United States to pursue a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology. She shared with Paul Garcia (Head of SBES), “From there I will spend the rest of my career striving to connect the gap between the research and the practical worlds of ASD, with the hopes of improving diagnosis, early intervention, and treatment programs of this mysteriously unique disorder.”

It is amazing to see the level of success our St. Barnabas graduates continue to exemplify!
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