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  • MS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1989
  • (Postdoc) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1982-1985
  • EdD, Boston University, Boston, MA 1979
  • BS, George Peabody College, Nashville, TN 1972

Personal Statement

I trace my interest in both language development and autism to experiences during my undergraduate education at George Peabody College in Nashville, TN. While working as a research assistant for The Toddler Research and Intervention Project under Drs. William and Diane Bricker, I discovered I was most interested in projects related to language development and intervention. In addition, I volunteered at a small residential program for children with autism, and was intrigued by the children and the challenges presented by their disorder. Thus, I pursued my doctoral degree in the newly established Program in Applied Psycholinguistics in the School of Education at Boston University.

Returning to my native state of North Carolina, I had the opportunity to combine my interests in autism and language development by working with TEACCH, the statewide program in North Carolina serving individuals with autism and their families. While with TEACCH, I co-authored a communication curriculum guide for classrooms serving children with autism, received a National Research Service Award for post-doctoral research on communication between parents and young children with autism, and coordinated a demonstration preschool project for children with autism funded by the U. S. Department of Education. Seeking clinical education and credentials that would best complement my research interests, I enrolled in the Master’s degree program in Speech-Language Pathology here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and received my degree in 1989.

In the fall of 1990, I returned to the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences at UNC-CH as a member of the faculty. My experience and knowledge base includes clinical expertise in providing speech-language pathology services for children with ASD and other disabilities, as well as research expertise in several related areas: (a) social-communication, language and emergent literacy development of infants and children with ASD, other disabilities, and typical development; (b) associations between sensory response patterns and core symptoms and social-communicative functioning in these children; (c) the development and validation of a community screening tool to detect infant at-risk for ASD; and (d) randomized controlled trials testing behavioral interventions with infants and young children with or at-risk for ASD. Mentoring individuals at different stages of their career pursuits, including clinical mentoring of Master’s level students in speech-language pathology as well as research and career mentoring at the undergraduate, Master’s, PhD, postdoctoral, and junior faculty levels, is a role that I find particularly rewarding. I have previously served as the advisor and primary research mentor for 11 PhD students who have earned their degrees and become productive scholars, and I continue to serve in those roles with PhD students currently pursuing their degrees.


Completed Grants

“Evaluation of a Novel Intervention for Infants at Risk for Neurodevelopmental Disorders.” R21HD091547 (L. Watson, Lead PI, G. Baranek, PI). $408,000, August 1, 2017-July 31, 2019. Principal Investigator (10% FTE).

“Promoting ASAP Collaboration through Technology (PACT): An Intervention Modification to Enhance Home-School Collaboration.” Research Grant, Institute of Education Sciences R324A150070 (B. Boyd, PI, S. Reszka, Co-PI). $1,488,697, July 1, 2016-June 30, 2020. Investigator (10% FTE).

“Advancing Social-Communication and Play (ASAP): An Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism.” Research Grant, Institute of Education Sciences R324A110256 (B. Boyd, PI, L. Watson, Co-PI), $3,167,682, July 1, 2011-June 30, 2015 (20% FTE); NCE, July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016.

“Efficacy of a Parent-Mediated Intervention for One-Year-Olds at-Risk for Autism.” Research Grant, Institute of Education Sciences R324A100305 (L. Watson, PI, E. Crais, Co-PI), $2,515,897, July 1, 2010-June 30, 2014. (20% FTE). NCE July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015.

“EPC IV #4: Systematic Evidence Reviews to Support the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) 09/01/12 – 3/31/15. Investigator.

“Sensory Experiences in Children with Autism.” Research Grant, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R01HD042168. (G. Baranek, PI). February 1, 2003 – June 30, 2013, NCE July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014. Investigator.

“Predicting Useful Speech in Children with Autism.” Research Grant, National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders R01DC006893 (P. Yoder, PI) via subcontract to Vanderbilt University. $983,452 for UNC-CH subcontract, February 1, 2009-January 31, 2013, NCE February 1, 2013-December 31, 2013. Site Principal Investigator (30% FTE).

Courses Taught

  • SPHS 897 Autism Research Seminar (Spring, alternate years)

Research/Clinical Interests

  • Early identification of children with autism
  • Social, communication, and sensory-motor development in children with autism and other developmental disabilities
  • Communication intervention with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with, or likely to be later diagnosed with, autism or other developmental disabilities


Robert W. Peters Award for Research Mentoring, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, UNC-CH, awarded 2017

2013 Editors’ Award for the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology for the following article: Watson, L. R., Crais, E. R., Baranek, G. T., Dykstra, J. R., & Wilson, K. P. (2013). Communicative gesture use in infants with and without autism: a retrospective home video study. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 22, 25-39.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Fellow, awarded 2013

UNC-CH Thorpe Faculty Engaged Scholars Program, 2012-2014

Nominated by doctoral students for Faculty Mentoring Award sponsored by the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council 2008, 2010, 2011, 2015

Nominated by doctoral students for Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring, 2006, 2009, 2011

Faculty of the Year Award, chosen by students in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, UNC-CH, 2004 NCASSPA (North Carolina Association of Supervisors in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology) “Supervisor of the Year” Award, 1995

Graduated with Honors, George Peabody College

1972 Outstanding Undergraduate Psychology Major, George Peabody College, 1972


A list of my publications can be found HERE.

Linda Watson