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Friends of the Life Span Institute
The Centers and their inception dates
The Life Span Institute is a center of centers collectively dedicated to discovering research-based solutions for the challenges of human and community development, disabilities, and aging.
Gerontology Center 1990
In the News
A small section of the network of English words showing the word “speech,” words that sound like “speech,” and words that sound like those words. Click here for a larger version of the diagram.
John Colombo, associate director for cognitive neuroscience at the Life Span Institute and professor of psychology became interim director of the institute on March 1, replacing Steven Warren, who assumed the post of vice provost for research and graduate Studies at KU on January 23.
Colombo’s research interests are in the developmental cognitive neuroscience of attention and learning in infancy and early childhood. His research on infant nutrition and cognitive development with Susan Carlson, professor of dietetics and nutrition at KU Medical Center, helped convince the two major infant-formula makers to add nutritional compounds present in a mother’s milk to their products. He has recently explored a possible early marker of autism that could help identify children very early in life.. He currently holds, or is a key participant in, grants from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Science Foundation.
Colombo will also become the co-director of the Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center on July 1 when Warren steps down from that post.
A committee,headed by Distinguished Professor Mabel Rice has been formed to begin a national search for a permanent director of the LSI.
The Life Span Institute will benefit from a bequest of more than $1 million from a Chase County couple. The gift from the estate of Wanda and Thomas Pyle will support research that benefits children with developmental disabilities.
Steve Warren, vice provost for research and graduate studies, said the bequest will be used to enhance the institute’s efforts to pursue high-impact research on the causes and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, which currently affect one in every 150 children in the United States.
LSI launched an initiative in 2007 to explore the possibility of creating a permanent KU Autism Research and Training Center to bring together scientists from several KU departments to encourage collaborative research and dissemination of research-based interventions to practitioners and parents. More on the Work Group on Autism Research and Training web site.
Some still in a state of denial, LSI faculty, staff and students and others wished LSI Director Steven Warren success on his next challenge on February 26 at the Adams Alumni Center. Warren stepped down from his LSI post March 1 after 8 years.
Since July, Warren had been ably handling three major administrative posts when interim vice provost for research and graduate studies was added to his LSI and KIDDRC director responsibilities. He was appointed the permanent vice provost on January 23 after a national search.
Since 1999, he has directed the Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center when he returned to Kansas, his alma mater, from Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt, he became internationally recognized for his contributions to understanding early communication, language development and intervention, and the prevention of mental retardation. He recently received a career research award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
In 2001, he became the director of the Life Span Institute, where his scientific leadership, rare administrative acumen and vision steered the LSI to a new level of well-being and influence in the most competitive climate in its 50-year history.
Warren will continue to direct the KIDDRC until July 1, when Co-Director Peter Smith will become the director with John Colombo as co-director.
Warren will continue as an LSI principal investigator on three major studies. With KU colleagues Marc Fey and Nancy Brady, he recently completed a five-year longitudinal analysis seeking to determine whether prelinguistic communication intervention generates significantly greater effects compared to later language intervention (funded by the U.S. Department of Education). Their study has led to a funded NIDCD investigation of the effects of different intensities of early communication intervention. Fey and Paul Yoder (Vanderbilt University) are collaborating with him on the longitudinal randomized clinical trial.
With John Borkowski (Notre Dame), Judith Carta (Kansas), Susan Landry (U. of Texas Heath Sciences Center), and Craig Ramey, Sharon Ramey, and Bette Keltner (Georgetown University) he is presently engaged in a major (funded by NICHD) prevention study of child neglect with high risk teenage mother with this same population (funded by NICHD).
Finally, he is the Principal Investigator of a study on the role of maternal responsivity in the development of young children with fragile X syndrome. This study is part of the Fragile X Research Center (NICHD) shared by the mental retardation research centers at the University of North Carolina and the University of Kansas.
Warren will continue to be closely involved with the LSI in his vice provost role.
Three Life Span researchers have been the named the first recipients of the Friends of LSI Pilot Discovery Grant Awards, which recognize outstanding proposals for studies that will lay the groundwork for future federal or private grant support.
Funded by gifts from members of the Friends of the Life Span Institute, the Discovery Awards are designed to encourage LSI researchers to conduct multidisciplinary, innovative pre-clinical or clinical pilot studies in preparation for competitive grant applications to federal agencies or substantial applications to private foundations.
The inaugural recipients are:
Kathy Thiemann, assistant research professor, Juniper Gardens Project, “Navigating Integration into Middle School: A Peer Network Intervention for Students with Autism.” This project will use written-script training to increase communication between students with autism and school peers who do not have disabilities as both groups transition from elementary school to junior high. Written-script training features scripted comments that correspond to different social situations. The scripts are used to prompt, reinforce and give feedback to children so they will communicate effectively with peers.
Jonathan Pinkston, assistant research professor and Coordinator of the Biobehavioral Measurement Core of the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, “Assessment of Impulsivity and Task Switching in a Rodent Model of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” ADHD is characterized by the inability to focus on relevant tasks and sustain attention. This project will study inbred rat strains whose learning deficits are similar to human ADHD. The goal is to provide for better procedures for identifying and assessing impulsivity patterns common in ADHD.
Richard Washburn, research associate, Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management, “The Watch-It Weight Management System: Preliminary Development.” Undergraduate college students have been virtually ignored by diet and physical activity programs to prevent obesity. The goal of this project is to design and develop an automated, individually tailored, interactive internet-based system called Watch-It for weight management in college students. As part of the project, Washburn will conduct a preliminary evaluation of the prototype Watch-It software.
The awards competition was open to Life Span faculty and investigators who are conducting pilot projects relevant to the LSI mission. The Discovery Awards represent a desire by the Friends of LSI to invest in data collection and other research-related activities that will lead to major federal or private support.
Life Span Director Steve Warren will receive a major national award this spring for his contributions to research in developmental disabilities. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities will present Warren with the AAIDD 2008 Research Award at the 132nd AAIDD Annual Meeting May 27-28 in Washington, D.C. AAIDD is the oldest and largest interdisciplinary professional organization in the United States devoted to mental retardation and related disabilities.
Warren has a long and distinguished career as a professional and researcher. He has published more than 100 articles and book chapters and is internationally known as an expert in atypical language development. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the current President of its Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Division, and a past president of AAIDD.
The award nomination lauded Warren’s significant contributions to the field for their quality, thoroughness and significance. “His own research productivity merits recognition in and of itself, but in addition, he supports colleagues as a Center Director, promotes interest in our field nationally, and mentors individuals who will carry on future research relevant to intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
The award will be presented May 28 at the first plenary session of the conference.
Glen White, director of the Research and Training Center for Independent Living, has been appointed by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to a three-year term on the State Rehabilitation Council, which provides advice and support to Kansas Rehabilitation Services.
Members represent stakeholders in employment-related services for people with disabilities, current and former consumers of vocational rehabilitation services, advocacy organizations, service providers, parents, business/industry, and special education. Individuals with disabilities constitute nearly 60 percent of the Council membership.
Steve Warren and Michael Wehmeyer joined fellow researchers from the United States and United Kingdom at a December conference focusing on the future of intellectual disabilities research and the possible role of the Special Olympics.
Sponsored by the Special Olympics and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the two-day invitational meeting in Miami included a special address by Special Olympics Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, “The New Special Olympics: Building a Foundation for Evidence-Based Practice.” Under Shriver’s leadership, Special Olympics has launched several new initiatives, among them greater involvement in cross-cultural research.
The conference involved more than 50 participants, including leaders in the field as well as graduate students and early-career researchers.
The LSI investigators participated in panel presentations on research trends in infancy and early childhood (Warren) and school-age/middle childhood (Wehmeyer) and in working groups organized into four major life stages.
Each researcher was invited to bring a junior researcher. Steve Warren took doctoral student Audra Sterling. Wehmeyer invited former student Karrie Shogren, who earned her Ph.D. at KU in 2006, now on the faculty at the University of Texas-Austin.
Liliana Mayo, director of the Life Span affiliate Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú (CASP), received the Order “El Sol Del Perú” in Lima in October. The award is considered the highest decoration the Peruvian government bestows on individuals for outstanding service and was presented at a ceremony held at the Toree Tagle Palace, home of the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Founded by Mayo in 1979, CASP, located in urban Lima, Peru, is internationally recognized for its work with children and adults with developmental disabilities and was the first center of its kind in Peru. Mayo teaches at the University Cayetano Heredia and the Catholic Pontificate University in Lima. Since 1996 she has been an honorary associate professor in KU’s Department of Applied Behavioral Science department. In 2003 she received the University’s Distinguished Service Citation, the highest honor given by KU and the Kansas Alumni Association.
A one-time administrative supplement to the Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (KIDDRC) core grant will support the dissemination of the highly successful program of LSI Peruvian affiliate, Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú (CASP), across Peru and to other third world countries. CASP, directed by Liliana Mayo, who received her doctorate from KU, and Judith LeBlanc, KU Professor Emeritus, is a comprehensive model program for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.
CASP has received international awards and recognition for its highly sustainable family-based holistic approach grounded in evidence-based practices. CASP attracts faculty and students from KU and other universities who teach and learn in the school set in urban Lima. Several KIDDRC investigators have consulted with CASP in recent years including Steve Warren, Steve Schroeder, Matt Reese, and Eva Horn.
The supplement will support the development, testing and evaluation of an online system to allow CASP’s video-based training modules to be accessible through the Internet via technologies that can function in regions with very low bandwidth infrastructure based on the University of Iowa’s Global Campus Network.
Karen Henry, LSI Assistant Director for Communications, will serve as project coordinator working with a CASP counterpart.
Audra Sterling, a fifth-year doctoral student in Psychology working with Steve Warren, received a prestigious $2500 research stipend last summer for her project, “Grammatical Development of Boys with FXS and Boys with Autism” from the National Fragile X Foundation.
Sterling is studying the morphosyntactic (word and sentence production) development of three groups of boys: those with Fragile X, those with Fragile X and autism, and boys with autism but not Fragile X. Research has shown that individuals with Fragile X have a number of speech and language delays, including delayed onset of talking, problems with intelligibility, and delays in both expressive and receptive morphosyntax. A significant number of children with Fragile X have a co-diagnosis of autism. Delays in syntax are documented in children with autism and low language levels.
Sterling’s proposal was selected by the Foundation’s Scientific and Clinical Advisory Committee, which annually funds grants to promising young scientists in the field of Fragile X research. Previous recipients have included graduate students at Stanford, the University of North Carolina, McGill and the University of Antwerp.
Jane Wegner, director of the Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, was among four Kansans appointed by Governor Kathleen Sebelius to a new state Task Force on Autism. The purpose of the group is to recommend potential legislation for improving the availability or accessibility of services for screening, diagnosing and treating children with autism and to promote programs to assist their parents.
Members of the Kansas House and Senate, the insurance commissioner and parents of children with autism also will make appointments to the 20-member task force.
Wayne Sailor received the The Arc’s 2007 Distinguished Research Award at the organization’s annual conference in October in Dallas. The award recognizes a researcher whose lifetime accomplishments have made a significant contribution to people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
Sailor was cited for his work in school-wide positive behavior support, which has been shown to reduce challenging behavior and create a constructive academic environment, even in so-called “tough” urban schools. Sailor also was lauded for his role in the founding of TASH more than 30 years ago, which is today one of the leading international associations devoted to research, education and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
The Arc, formerly known as the Association of Retarded Citizens, is the world's largest grassroots organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Beach Center Co-Director Ann Turnbull received the award in 2004. Early recipients include B.F. Skinner, Jerome Lejeune (who discovered the genetic basis for Down syndrome) and Andreas Rett (who discovered Rett syndrome).
More than 25 campus members met in the Kansas Union on December 6 to launch a new group called the KU Disability Network. According to Marla Herron, associate registrar and one of the conveners, the purpose of the new group is to improve the campus climate for people with disabilities, to exchange information about disability and to raise the profile of disability issues on campus.
Representatives of several KU entities, including the Academic Achievement and Access Center, Athletics, Audio Reader, Design and Construction, Housing, Human Resources, Library Services, and Watkins Health Center, brainstormed how the Network could contribute to an improved campus experience for people with disabilities, including war veterans. Suggestions included creating and publicizing a comprehensive list of disability resources for students, staff, faculty and visitors; developing a permanent web site to promote communication about disability issues; and building a list of speakers on disability who are available to speak to KU classes.
The steering committee includes LSI affiliates Glen White, director of the Research and Training Center for Independent Living, and Dot Nary, graduate student in Gerontology. For more information visit http://www.registrar.ku.edu/kudisabilitynetwork/
Jerry Schultz has been named co-director of the KU Work Group on Community Health and Development. Schultz has served as associate director of the Work Group since 1995. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and a master’s degree in medical anthropology, both from KU. He works primarily with issues involving community health and development initiatives.
Paul Diedrich, Associate Director for Project Development
New Awards (not previously funded) Information
1. Michael Fox received two new, five-years award “Emergency Preparedness” and “Expanding State Disability Surveillance Capacity in Kansas” from KsH&E, prime contractor to CDC that began August 1, 2007.
2. Steve Fawcett and Jerry Schultz received a new, eight-month award “Evaluation of Future HCF Healthy Lifestyles Grantees of an Online System for Participatory Evaluation” from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City that began September 1, 2007.
3. Chris Smith received a new, one-year award “Technical Assistance Services (Data Management and Mental Health Consultation) to SEK-CAP” from SEK-CAP that began October 1, 2007.
4. Glen White received a new, five-year award “Implementing Evidence-based Interventions” from KsH&E, prime contractor to CDC from KsH&E, prime contractor to CDC that began October 10, 2007.
5. Sara Sack received a new, one-year award “Assisting Medicaid Beneficiaries in Accessing Assistive Technology” from the Kansas Health Policy Authority that began November 1, 2007.
6. Jerry Schultz received a new, eleven-month award “Web-based Core Competency Training for Coalitions” from the Community Systems Group, Inc. that began November 15, 2007.
7. Sara Ferguson received a new, three-year RO3 award “Acoustic Correlates of Clear Speech” from NIDCD that began December 1, 2007.
8. Judith Carta received a new, five-year contract “Technical Assistance Center for Evidence-based Practices to Improve the Social-Emotional Development of Young Children with or at Risk of Disabilities” from the University of South Florida, prime contractor to DE-OSERS-OSEP that began January 1, 2008.
9. Holly Storkel (mentor) and Jill Hoover (fellow) received a new, two-year F31 award “The Interface between the Lexicon and Morphology in SLI” from NIDCD that began January 1, 2008.
10. Ann Turnbull received a new, five-year subcontract “National Early Childhood Training Enhancement Center” from the University of North Carolina, prime contractor to DE-OSERS that began January 1, 2008.
11. Dale Walker and Steven Warren received a new, four-year award “Center for Promoting Language and Literacy Readiness in Early Childhood” from DE-OSERS that began January 1, 2008.
Past Submissions not Previously Reported
1. Joseph Donnelly resubmitted his two-year subcontract proposal “Enhancing Behavioral Obesity Treatment for African American Women” to KUMC (PI Christie Befort), prime contractor to NIH, on November 16, 2007.
2. George Gotto submitted a new, two-year proposal “The Nature and Benefits of Wisdom in Family Decision Making: Insights from Families of Children with Disabilities” to the University of Chicago’s Defining Wisdom Project on November 19, 2007.
3. Jerry Schultz submitted a new, two-year SBIR proposal “Web-based Core Competency Training for Coalitions” to the Community Systems Group, Inc., prime contractor to NIH, on November 20, 2007.
4. Janet Marquis submitted her third-year continuation “School Readiness Project” to KsDE on November 29, 2007
5. Wendy Parent submitted her third-year semi-annual report “Women’s Educational Equity Program” to DE-WEEA on November 30, 1007.
6. Nancy Brady submitted her second-year continuation “Communication Success and AAC“ to NICH on December 1, 2007.
7. Jay Buzhardt submitted a new, three-year proposal “Distance Learning to Improve Knowledge and Implementation of Evidence-Based Treatment for Children 0-3 at risk for Autism” to HS-HRSA-MCH on December 7, 2007.
8. Steven Barlow (sponsor) and Meredith Estep (fellow) submitted a new, two-year F31 “Cortical and Subcortical Contributions to Ororhythmic Behavior” to NIH on December 8, 2007.
9. Katherine Froehlich-Grobe submitted a one-year supplement for her RO1 “A Randomized Trial for Wheelchair Users” to NICHD on December 11, 2007.
10. Pamela Cress submitted her seventh-year continuation “Great Plains Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center” to University of Missouri, prime contractor to DE, on December 12, 2007.
11. Judy Carta submitted her fourth-year continuation “Early Reading First-Wyandotte County, KS” to KUMC, prime contractor to DE, on December 13, 2007.
12. David Johnson submitted a new, two-year proposal “Psychosocial Determinants of Health in the Self-Care Talk Project” to the Alzheimer’s Association on January 4, 2008.
13. Susan Bashinski submitted a new, three-year subcontract proposal “Influencing Outcomes for Children Who Are Deaf-Blind with Cochlear Implants” to Western Oregon University, prime contractor to DE, on January 9, 2008.
14. Matt Stowe submitted a new, two-year RO3 proposal “A Project-Independent Approach to Researcher-Community Partnerships” to NIH on January 11, 2008.
15. Jane Wegner submitted a new, four-year proposal “Communication, Autism and Technology” to DE-OSERS-OSEP on January 11, 2008.
16. Martha Hodgesmith submitted a new, one-year proposal “What Health and Safety Personnel Need to Know to Assist Persons with Disabilities in Being Prepared” to the KsH&E on January 23, 2008.
17. Ed Auer submitted a new, three-year proposal “Learning to Perceive and Produce Fingerspelled Words” to NSF on January 25, 2008.
18. Debra Kamps submitted a new, one-year proposal “Autism Training Program” to KUMC (PI Linda Heitzman-Powell) prime contractor to KsSRS on January 31, 2008.
19. Richard Saunders, Muriel Saunders, Lesley Olswang, Pat Dowden, Nancy Brady and Kathy Thiemann, submitted their twenty-second-year program project non-competing continuation “Communication of People with Mental Retardation” to NICHD on February 1, 2008.
20. Wendy Parent submitted a new, three-year proposal “Integrated Community Systems Project for Youth with Special Health Care Needs” to HHS-HRSA on February 1, 2008.
21. Kathleen Baggett submitted a new, three-year RO1 proposal “Father Involvement Focused Parent-Infant Program for Reducing Child Maltreatment” to NIH on February 5, 2008.
22. Susan Kemper will submit a new, three-year subcontract proposal “DHB – Measuring Spoken Language Variability in Elderly Individuals” to Oregon Health and Science University, prime contractor to NSF, on January 12, 2008.
23. Joseph Donnelly, Bryan Smith, Richard Washburn and Debra Sullivan will resubmit their five-year resubmission proposal “Effect of Exercise on Weight Loss Maintenance and CVD Risk Factors” to University of Pittsburgh, prime contractor to NIH, on February 13, 2007.
24. Amy McCart will submit a new, three-year proposal “Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: Implementing Effective Evidence-Based Practices in Community Agencies Meeting the Needs of Families with Co-Occurring Behavioral and Mental Health Disorders” to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, on February 13, 2008.
25. Debra Kamps, Linda Heitzman-Powell and Susan Corrigan will submit a new, three-year proposal “An Examination of Child and Family Outcomes for Autism Waiver Recipients” to Autism Speaks on February 15, 2008.
26. Debra Kamps and Linda Heitzman-Powell will submit a new, two-year proposal “An Examination of Evidence-Based Strategies to Promote Acquisition and Generalization of Social Communication Skills of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” to Autism Speaks on February 15, 2008.
27. Kathryn Bigelow and Judith Carta will submit a new, three-year proposal “Dissemination of the SafeCare® Model: Effectiveness of Technology-Based Training for Family Preservation Service Providers” to CDC on February 15, 2008.
28. Katherine Froehlich-Grobe, in collaboration with Patricia Kluding @ KUMC, will submit a new, two-year R21 proposal “Development and Validation of the Wheelhawk Functional Fitness Battery” to NIH on February 16, 2008.