Life Span Institute - Affiliated Centers


Intellectual disabilities, the developing and aging brain, how we learn to talk and think, the independence of individuals with physical disabilities in society—these are among the big themes that drive the work of the affiliated Centers of the Life Span Institute.

Each Center draws together a distinct group of researchers from diverse fields and backgrounds with a common interest in investigating specific problems of human development, disabilities and aging.

Together the Centers represent a broad range of approaches to human problems from preconception to the end of life.

1. Beach Center on Disability

Through excellence in research, training, technical assistance and public service in Kansas, the nation and the world, the Beach Center on Disability seeks to make a significant and sustainable difference in the quality of life of families and individuals affected by disability. Research focuses on access to the general curriculum, assistive technology, deaf-blindness, disability policy, employment, family supports and services in early childhood, family quality of life, individual control of funding, positive behavior support and self-determination. Founded in 1988 by KU Distinguished Professors Ann and Rud Turnbull, the Beach Center honors Ross and Marianna Beach for their long-standing efforts on behalf of families affected by disability and was inspired by the Turnbulls' son, Jay, who had several disabilities.

Michael L. Wehmeyer, Ph.D., Director
Karrie A. Shogren, Ph.D., Associate Director
Jean Ann Summers, Ph.D., Associate Director and Coordinator, Family Programs
Mary Morningstar, Ph.D., Director, Transition Coalition
Kathleen Lane, Ph.D., Director, CI3T Projects
Contact: 785 864-7600

2. Biobehavioral Neurosciences in Communication Disorders Center

The Center for Biobehavioral Neurosciences in Communication Disorders (BNCD) was founded in 2002 when the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders awarded a core grant to establish the center. The BNCD is a natural outgrowth of the Life Span Institute's long-standing focus on communication and language development and intervention. The BNCD's research spans a wide range of issues relevant to the causes and treatment of communication disorders from infancy to old age including studies on infant attention, the genetics of language impairments, language intervention, the decline of working memory in old age as reflected in speech and more precise measures of hearing loss to aid cochlear implant design.

Mabel L. Rice, Ph.D., Director
Contact: 785 864-4570

3. The Center for Research on Learning

The Center for Research on Learning (CRL), joining the Life Span Institute in 2014, has a long history as an internationally recognized research and development organization noted for creating solutions that dramatically improve quality of life, learning, and performance, especially for those who experience barriers to success. The CRL encompasses six divisions, each with a slightly different research emphasis. Researchers study problems in education and work to place solutions that make a difference into the hands of educators, learners, employers, and policy makers.

Michael Hock, Ph.D. Director
Contact: 785 864-4780

4. Child Language Doctoral Program

The Child Language Doctoral Program was established in 1983 as the first specialized degree program in the emerging field of child language acquisition. The program focuses on the interdisciplinary academic preparation and research training of child language specialists. The internationally recognized faculty brings diverse approaches to the study of how children communicate and speak. The program offers students a wide choice of research tools, facilities and field sites including the Child Language Acquisition Studies Lab that has the largest known archive of transcribed spontaneous samples from a longitudinal study of preschool children diagnosed as specific language impaired (SLI). The Life Span Institute, the Language Acquisition Preschool and the clinical and research facilities of the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic provide research sites and practica.

Mabel L. Rice, Ph.D., Director
Contact: 785 864-4570

5 Juniper Gardens Children's Project

The Juniper Gardens Children's Project (JGCP) began in 1964 when citizens from northeast Kansas City, Kansas joined with faculty from the University of Kansas to devise solutions to specific problems in educational achievement and parenting in that low-income community. The JGCP has grown over the years from a small, community-based research initiative housed in the basement of a liquor store to a unique, internationally recognized research center which includes local and national community sites in projects and investigations housed at the Children's Campus of Kansas City, four blocks from where it began. The Children's Campus of Kansas City is a joint community initiative in Kansas City, Kansas—an effort that the JGCP has been supporting for the past decade. The JGCP is particularly recognized for its contributions to the development of effective approaches for accelerating learning and reducing classroom conduct problems in both special and general education. In 1996, the JGCP was awarded the Research Award of the International Council for Exceptional Children in recognition of its outstanding research contributions.

Judith Carta, Ph.D., Interim Director
Barbara Terry, Ph.D., Director of Community Relations
Contact: 913 321-3143

6. The Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training

The Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (K-CART), established in 2008 with private and public funds, is a multidisciplinary center that promotes research and training on the causes, nature and management of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Committed to the highest standards of scientific rigor, K-CART generates new scientific discoveries about ASD, disseminates research-based practices by training professionals, practitioners and families who serve children and adults with autism, and provides clinical services through the Center for Child Health and Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Matthew Mosconi, Ph.D., Director
Kathryn Ellerbeck, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Director
Contact: 913 321-3143

7. Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

The Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (KIDDRC) has been funded by the National Institute of Health and Human Development for the past 45 years. Throughout its history, the KIDDRC has played a major role in elucidating the causes, prevention and treatment of intellectual disabilities and related secondary conditions. The center brings together researchers from the KU-Lawrence and Kansas University Medical Center campuses, as well as from the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City. Over the past four decades, the KIDDRC has served as a model of interdisciplinary collaboration across campuses and disciplines. More than 80 percent of KIDDRC investigators collaborate with one another on funded projects, and half of these represent collaborations across the three Center sites. Another 30 percent of KIDDRC investigators collaborate with investigators at other IDDRCs at Vanderbilt, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin, Washington University in St. Louis and Johns Hopkins University/ Kennedy Krieger.

John Colombo, Ph.D., Director
Peter Smith, Ph.D., Co-Director
Contact: 785 864-4295

8. Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities

More than 40 years ago, as the Life Span Institute's research on developmental disabilities took root, efforts began to translate this research into practice through what is now known as the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities (KUCDD). Virtually all of the Life Span Institute's direct service, technical assistance and post-doctoral, pre- and in-service training are associated with KUCDD. These include clinics to diagnose and treat children with disabilities, a statewide project that provides assistive technology to people with disabilities and their families and training childcare providers and social workers to support individuals with disabilities. In addition, investigators affiliated with the KUCDD conduct research that has state, national and international impact in areas like self-determination, positive behavior supports, inclusive educational practices, early childhood education, community and workplace supports, family systems and supports and other areas critical to the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Michael L. Wehmeyer, Ph.D., Co-Director
Karrie A. Shogren, Ph.D., Co-Director
Glen White, Ph.D., Associate Director
Chet Johnson, M.D., Director, KUCDD-Kansas City Site
David Lindeman, Ph.D., Director, KUCDD-Parsons Site
Sara Sack, Ph.D., Director, Assistive Technology for Kansans Project
Jennifer Kurth, Ph.D., PI, Kansas Institute for Positive Behavior Supports
Susan B. Palmer, Ph.D., Community Education Coordinator
Contact: 785 864-4295

9. The Life Span Institute at Parsons

As the founding center of the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies (Life Span Institute), the University of Kansas Life Span Institute at Parsons has partnered with national, state, regional and community partners to conduct research, develop model service programs and provide training for professionals involved in services to young children, youth and adults with disabilities and their families. Located in a rural community in southeast Kansas, the Parsons LSI includes a component of the Kansas University Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the Parsons Research Center. Current research focuses on individuals with autism, novel intervention strategies for challenging behavior, hearing assessment with individuals who are difficult to test, effects of toxic stress on children and families and maladaptive and challenging behavior. Additionally, the Parsons LSI provides significant service and training across the nation and state of Kansas on assistive technology, early childhood and training for community organizations and agencies serving persons with developmental disabilities.

David Lindeman, Ph.D., Director
Contact: 620 421-6550, ext 1713 Contact: 620 421-6550, ext 1713

10. Merrill Advanced Studies Center

The Merrill Advanced Studies Center, established in 1990 with an endowment from Virginia Urban Merrill and Fred Merrill, is a catalyst for scholarship on disabilities and policies that shape university research. Merrill conferences and publications establish new directions and build collaborative projects in both science and policy. World-class experts often meet as a group for the first time at Merrill conferences and go on to develop national projects that answer key questions in science. The Center publishes books on topics relevant to developmental disabilities and makes policy papers available online and in print. The Merrill web site at KU has fact sheets and discussions on science and policy for the general public.

Mabel L. Rice, Ph.D., Director
Contact: 785 864-4570

11. Research and Training Center on Independent Living

The Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) has a 35-year history of conducting disability research, providing training and transferring knowledge to practice. The Center furthers independent living for people with disabilities through scientifically sound, theoretically driven sustainable interventions and measures that lead to effective community living solutions and policy change. Center researchers work closely with consumers and service providers to develop research and products that meet their critical needs. The Center also partners with other universities and agencies to improve the health and participation of people with disabilities.

Glen W. White, Ph.D., Director
Martha J. Hodgesmith, J.D., Associate Director
Jean Ann Summers, Ph.D., Research Director
Contact: 785 864-4095,

12. The SWIFT (Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation) Center

SWIFT Center was launched in 2012 with a $24 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs—one of the largest in KU history. SWIFT is a national K-8 technical assistance center that builds school capacity to provide academic and behavioral support to improve outcomes for all students through equity-based inclusion. SWIFT assists districts and state educational agencies to implement its successful model for educating general and special education students together while leveraging existing resources, breaking down administrative silos and improving schoolwide academic outcomes. SWIFT is currently partnered with five state agencies and 17 districts in Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont.

Wayne Sailor, Ph.D., Director
Amy McCart, Director of Technical Assistance

13. Work Group for Community Health and Development

The mission of the KU Work Group is to promote community health and development through collaborative research, teaching and public service. Established in 1975, the KU Work Group joined the Life Span Institute as a distinct center in 1990. The Work Group has developed widely used capabilities for community-based participatory research (including its Online Documentation and Support System) and for building capacity for community work (including the Community Tool Box). Recognition of these capabilities led to official designation in 2004 as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

Vincent T. Francisco, Ph.D., Co-Director
Jerry A. Schultz, Ph.D., Co-Director
Stephen B. Fawcett, Ph.D., Senior Advisor/Former Co-Director
Contact: 785 864-0533

Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú

(CASP is affiliated with the Life Span Institute through a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Kansas)

Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú (CASP) is a nonprofit educational institution that serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities, autism and behavioral problems, as well as their families and professionals from Peru and other parts of the world. Under the direction of its founder, Liliana Mayo, Ph.D., CASP is recognized and honored worldwide for its contributions as a model research, demonstration and training center. Mayo has been supported by a steady stream of her KU colleagues who have volunteered as consultants, trainers, administrators and fund raisers; notably, Judith Le Blanc, who serves as CASP research director for more than 30 years, and retired Life Span Director Stephen Schroeder and Carolyn Schroeder. CASP has a formal agreement with the Life Span Institute and receives much of its staff education through university faculty from the KU departments of Special Education and Applied Behavioral Science.

Liliana Mayo, Ph.D., Director

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