Life Span Institute - About Us

Annual Reports

The Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies (LSI) was created in 1990 out of the 67-year-old Kansas Bureau of Child Research. Today it is one of the largest and most highly regarded human development and disabilities research centers in the country. LSI brings together scientists of diverse disciplines including gerontololgy, psychology, psychiatry, speech pathology, sociology, education, biology, pharmacology, physiology and medicine to study human development from its genetic origins through the final stages of life. LSI supports basic and applied research, treatment and assessment clinics, service coordination and delivery, consultation, and training—notably, training of the next generation of scientists. Life Span Institute’s 12 centers and Peruvian affiliate have more than 150 programs and projects active at any one time in Kansas, as well as other states and Peru. Many projects directly serve individuals, families, and communities located in underserved Kansas City neighborhoods and rural Kansas counties.


The mission of the Life Span Institute is to find research-based solutions for the challenges of human and community development, disabilities and aging.


The Life Span Institute fosters a highly collaborative, enterprising environment for scientists, students and practitioners to conduct research on human and community development, disabilities, and aging.


Besides offering graduate and post-graduate training, the Life Span Institute trains direct care providers, professionals, families, and individuals on issues ranging from classroom instruction and behavior management to health promotion and self-advocacy.

Direct services, consultation and technical assistance

LSI investigators provide assessment and treatment services to individuals and families. They also develop strategies for school systems, longterm care residences and other community groups and agencies.


As leaders in the fields of human development, disabilities, and aging, LSI investigators participate in shaping public policy decisions and research priorities through community partnerships, public and private leadership forums and interdisciplinary research and publication.


The Life Span Institute central office is in the Dole Human Development Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Components of LSI in Lawrence are at the John T. Stewart Children’s Center and the Wakarusa Research Facility; in Kansas City at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the Juniper Gardens Children's Project; and in Parsons, Kansas at the Life Span Institute.

Several projects are collaborations with universities and organizations from across the state, region and nation. LSI affiliate Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú is located in Limon Perú.


John Colombo

John Colombo

John Colombo, professor of psychology, became the third director of the Life Span Institute September 2007. Colombo also serves as the director and principal investigator of the University of Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

Colombo has previously served the University of Kansas as faculty chair of the Human Subjects Committee on the Lawrence campus (1993-2012), as an associate dean of KU’s Graduate School (2001-2004) and as acting chair of the Department of Psychology (2005-2006). He joined the KU faculty in 1988 preceded by six years as a postdoctoral trainee and research associate.

Colombo’s research interests are in the developmental cognitive neuroscience of attention and learning with a special focus on early individual differences in these areas and how they relate to the typical and atypical development of cognitive and intellectual function in infancy and early childhood.

He conducts research in laboratories at the KU Edwards Campus and the KU Medical Center, as well as at the Wakarusa Research Facility in Lawrence.

Along with being an active participant in the Cognitive and Brain Science and Developmental Science doctoral programs within the Department of Psychology, he is affiliated with three interdisciplinary doctoral programs: Child Language, Clinical Child Psychology and Neuroscience.

His research on infant nutrition and cognitive development with Susan Carlson, University of Kansas Medical Center professor of dietetics and nutrition, contributed to the decision to add nutritional compounds present in mother’s milk to infant formula in the U.S. He is currently the co-director of a longitudinal clinical trial studying the effects of prenatal supplementation with DHA on cognitive development through childhood.

He currently holds, or is a key participant in, federal grants from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. His work has also been supported by the National Science Foundation, by foundation grants (e.g., March of Dimes) and by industry (Mead Johnson Nutrition and Martek).

Complete Profile



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