Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences, Child, Family, and School Psychology

First Advisor

Devadrita Talapatra, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Cynthia Hazel

Third Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth

Fourth Advisor

Jeanine Coleman


Down syndrome, Intellectual disability, Positive psychology, School psychology, Thriving


Down syndrome (DS) is a chromosomal abnormality associated with intellectual disability (ID) and multiple medical complications. However, despite significant deficits related to the disability, there are people with DS who are thriving in our community. This dissertation examines those who thrive with DS and the individual and environmental factors that influence their thriving within two manuscripts. Manuscript One presents a synthesis of seminal and current positive psychology and disability studies literature. Review indicates that thriving with ID occurs when individuals report (a) a healthy transactional relationship between the individual and the ecological system; (b) high subjective well-being; and, (c) an upward developmental trajectory. A new framework for contextualizing thriving in the ID population, the Transactional Ecological Thriving Model (TET-M), is introduced. Manuscript Two describes a qualitative multiple-case study examining the lives of four young adults who are thriving with DS. Descriptive case contexts and a cross-case thematic analysis elucidate individual and environmental factors that facilitate thriving in the DS population: (a) supportive social ecologies, (b) creating family, (c) high expectations for independence, (d) vulnerability in adulthood, (e) advocacy, (f) a focus on physical health, and (g) a limited utility for standardized assessments. Based on these findings and the TET-M, it is suggested that school psychologists work to promote thriving for all students, including those with DS. Recommended practices include focusing on student subjective emotional experiences and life satisfaction, measuring self-reported strengths, examining student growth trajectories rather than normative deficits, and using an ecological lens for both assessment and intervention planning.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Talia G. Thompson


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

224 p.


Disability studies, Educational psychology, Psychology