Grant to Expand Research That Supports Kansans with Disabilities and Their Families

Building on more than 50 years of federal funding, a University of Kansas research center focused on intellectual and developmental disabilities has received a five-year, $2.9 million grant to expand their work that supports Kansans with disabilities and their families.

The grant from the Administration for Community Living, Office of Intellectual and Developmental Disability funds the core activities of the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, or KUCDD, based at the KU Life Span Institute. The center is part of a network of 67 such university centers.

"A man waters plants in a greenhouse as part of work participating in an inclusive postsecondary education program for KU students with intellectual disabilities"

The center’s core activities—research, community service, training and education, and information dissemination—directly benefit Kansans, said Karrie Shogren, a Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor of Special Education and director of KUCDD.

“This grant will provide continued support for KUCDD’s efforts directly engaging people with disabilities and their families in research and training, in building inclusive communities, and in disseminating information that has an impact in Kansas and across the nation and world,” she said. “This recognizes all of the power that there is in the community for inclusive research and to create more opportunities to develop practices that work to change systems and promote self-determination for people with disabilities.”

To build on its history of improving outcomes for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or IDD, and identify the most pressing needs in the disability community, KUCDD recently supported state-wide listening sessions to capture the voices of people with disabilities and family members. Researchers focused on Kansans’ experiences with services, examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of people with IDD and their families, collaborated with schools and community partners to support effective transition services, learned about new and emerging needs. They also conducted feedback sessions with members of center's Consumer Advisory Council (CAC), research partners, and Kansas developmental disability network organizations. The work identified:

  • the pressing needs of transition-age youth, including concerns about moving from school to competitive employment, postsecondary education, and community participation for people with developmental disabilities in Kansas;
  • an increase in behavioral and emotional support needs across the life course due to social isolation and decreased supports during the pandemic;
  • the synergy and potential growth of the priorities pursued by KUCDD, statewide community and governmental partners, and additional university partners creating new potential partnerships, research directions, and community services

In FY2022, the center received almost $6 million in federal and state funding supporting these priorities. The KUCDD grant provides infrastructure support for all of these projects and will enable KUCDD to expand its focus on inclusive research or research that is co-developed, co-implemented and co-disseminated by people with lDD.

“We seek to do good science that’s rooted in values,” Shogren said. “We want to be doing research that makes a real impact and is truly driven by this value of self-determination—that people with lived experience have to be centered in all phases of that process, telling us about what matters to them.”

KU Life Span Institute Director John Colombo said the center’s continued federal support means directly improving the lives of Kansans.

“Since 1969, KUCDD faculty and staff have led groundbreaking research in family supports, inclusive education, self-determination, and positive behavior supports,” Colombo said. “This foundational work is a part of our commitment to impact policy, practice, and research while promoting opportunities for empowerment, self-determination, and inclusive community participation for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Photo: A KU student works in a greenhouse as part of Transition to Postsecondary Education, an inclusive postsecondary education program for KU students with intellectual disabilities. Credit: Drew Rosdahl