Trina Spencer named director of longtime KU research center

Trina Spencer, who researches the promotion of academic language of young children with and without disabilities, has been named director of the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the University of Kansas, one of 12 research subcenters at the KU Life Span Institute.

"Trina Spencer"

Spencer brings an extensive record of federally-funded research to Juniper Gardens, a center focused on children’s social well-being and academic achievement based in Kansas City, Kansas. Her work applies aspects of behavior, language, psychology and education to the development and assessment of tools that promote early literacy, language and reading comprehension.

“Dr. Spencer is a great fit for the directorship of the Juniper Gardens center,” said John Colombo, director of the Life Span Institute. “Her science is rigorous and it readily translates to educational and clinical practice. Her focus on partnerships and collaboration make a wonderful continuation to the history of community-engaged research at Juniper Gardens.”

Spencer’s work has evaluated the feasibility, efficacy and sustainability of interventions, including Multi-tiered Systems of Support, or MTSS, models for schools. She has led creation of tools such as a language intervention curriculum called Story Champs, a multi-tiered Spanish-English curriculum for preschoolers whose primary language at home is Spanish, and an augmented and alternative communication storytelling program in South Africa, where she was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Pretoria. There she also developed ECHO Autism — South Africa, virtual learning network of providers offering real-time access to autism and behavioral experts.

In addition to her role as director at Juniper Gardens and senior scientist at the Life Span Institute, Spencer will hold a faculty appointment in the KU Department of Applied Behavioral Science and a courtesy appointment with the KU Department of Speech-Language-Hearing. She earned a doctorate degree in disability disciplines and a master’s degree in school psychology, both from Utah State University.