Life Span Institute to host global audience for developmental disabilities research conference


The KU Life Span Institute will welcome more than 350 scientists, graduate students and practitioners from the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities to the 56th annual Gatlinburg Conference, which will take place April 17-19 in Kansas City, Mo.

"A group of people crowd around a poster display at the 2023 Gatlinburg Conference"
A group of researchers gather around a poster display to discuss research findings at the 2023 Gatlinburg Conference. 

Registration for the conference is open and ranges from $475 for academic professionals to $200 for self-advocates, early career researchers and students. All conference activities will be held at the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza.

Co-hosted by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), the conference is a forum for exchanging information and new findings in behavioral and biobehavioral research and theory, said John Colombo, director of the KU Life Span Institute.

“The Gatlinburg Conference is where, for over 50 years, senior and early-stage investigators gather every year to share their most recent work on intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Colombo said. “It’s specifically devoted to graduate students, postdocs and early-stage scientists, and so it has served as the literal launching ground for many careers in the field.”

"Attendees at the Gatlinburg Conference in 2023 discuss a poster display"
The Gatlinburg Conference he conference brings together scientists from around the world to discuss research and collaborate.

The 2024 conference, which is named for the city in which it began in the 1960s, features talks by:

Beth Tarini, associate director at the Center for Translational Research and professor of pediatrics at George Washington University.  She leads research on optimizing the delivery of genetic services to families and children, with a focus on screenings for newborns.

Maya Sabatello, associate professor of medical sciences at the Center for Precision Medicine and Genomics and the Division of Ethics at Columbia University. Her work focuses on law, society and disability, and the implications of genetics, especially in pediatrics and judicial settings. 

Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine. Klin’s research is focused on the emergence of the social mind and brain from infancy to adulthood.

Other highlights include a preconference workshop on science communication led by Liz Weintraub, a senior advocacy specialist at the AUCD and host of “Tuesdays with Liz” on YouTube, with Beth Haller, author of “Disabled People Transforming Media Culture for a More Inclusive World.” 

There will be conference sessions on funding strategies, a panel presentation about early life identification of intellectual and developmental disabilities, and updates from the National Institutes of Health.

Additional information on registration, accommodations, transportation and accessibility is available through the Gatlinburg conference website.