Discoveries that improve human health and welfare
THE KU LIFE SPAN INSTITUTE brings together scientists and students at the intersections of education, behavioral science and neuroscience to study problems that directly affect the health and well-being of individuals and communities in Kansas, as well as across the nation and world.
investigators, students and staff
million awarded for research in FY2019
of improving human health and welfare
On July 26, 1990, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act marked a new era for people with disabilities. The landmark legislation prohibiting discrimination based on disability aimed to assure that that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The law covered several areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The KU Life Span Institute has conducted research aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities for more than 60 years. Together with many units at the University of Kansas, we are marking this anniversary through our media and programs. Those include:
Look Back, Look Forward: The ADA at 30
"Look Back/Look Forward: The ADA at 30,” will be held at 3 pm September 9. This virtual panel features:
- Jean Hall, director of the Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies and professor in the KU Department of Applied Behavioral Science
- Lex Friedan, professor of biomedical informatics and professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
- Anjali Forber-Pratt, assistant professor at the Department of Human & Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University
- Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress
The panel will be moderated by Michael Wehmeyer, chair of the KU Department of Special Education, Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor in Special Education, and director and senior scientist at the Beach Center on Disability.
Advance registration is required for this free event. A link to access the panel via Zoom will be distributed two weeks prior to the event. Sign up using our registration form.
Additional media to mark this anniversary, including video interviews with individuals about the ADA, will be added to the in the Life Span Institute blog through the start of the fall semester.
Findings: Omega-3 fatty acids
Few things are as important in a baby’s first year of life as nutrition – that’s a given. But new research suggests that increasing intake of an omega-3 fatty acid while pregnant has a positive effect on the fetus that continues to affect the child’s development years later.
A team of scientists at the KU Life Span Institute recently authored a study that showed that pregnant women who consumed a supplement of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient added to U.S. infant formulas since 2002, tend to have children with higher fat-free body mass at 5 years old. The findings of the experimental study, presented in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that improving maternal DHA nutrition has a favorable programming effect on the fetus that influences body composition in early childhood.
“DHA is a nutrient found in the highest concentrations in oily fish such as salmon and tuna, foods many Americans don’t eat a lot of, so they tend to get low intakes,” said Susan Carlson, professor in the Department of Dietetics & Nutrition in the School of Health Professions. “Because U.S. intakes are low and because DHA is highly concentrated in the brain where it increases dramatically in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life, I have had a long interest in whether more of this nutrient is needed for optimal health during early development. DHA can be delivered to the fetus by increasing maternal intake during pregnancy and to the breast-fed infant by increasing maternal intake during lactation, which increases DHA in mothers’ milk.”
Program: Transition to Post-Secondary Education
When Noah Krueger came to KU in the fall of 2016, one of the first challenges to overcome was learning how the KU bus system worked. Like any KU freshman student unaccustomed to public transit, he struggled at first with figuring out which bus went where and when.
But two years after starting a program for students with intellectual disabilities, he can not only check off success at navigating the bus system, he said. He has completed two years of classes at KU and grown academically and socially – and he can teach other people how to ride the bus, too.
“The bus was a big deal,” Noah said. “But now I’ve learned living on my own, grocery shopping, budgeting, working, and living with friends.”
Noah is just one of the 18 students who are enrolled in or have completed a two-year certificate at KU through the Transition to Postsecondary Education program. Funded through a five-year federal grant to the Life Span Institute in 2015, and in collaboration with the KU School of Education, the program is the only one of its kind in Kansas that combines career development, academics and social skills for students with intellectual disabilities.
The 2019 freshman class in the program have diverse education backgrounds, experiences and interests, including working with children, athletics, musical theater, and interior design.
July 15-17: KU SOARS Summer Institute on Inclusive Education
Teaming and Collaboration to Promote Inclusive Practices
This three-day institute held over Zoom aims to translate research to practice with the goal of supporting teachers and practitioners to expand and build upon current practices around inclusive education. Participants will engage in hands-on practice, interactive discussions, and keynote presentations.
July 15- 9:00-11:00 - Keynote 1- Michael Giangreco
July 16- 9:00-12:30 - Keynote 2 - Michael Wehmeyer; Screening of Crip Camp
July 17- 9:00-12:00 - Breakout Sessions
When protests erupted over the death of George Floyd and ongoing systemic racism in the United States in the spring, entrepreneur David Dennis was reminded of the stories his mother had told him of the civil rights movement in the 60s. He said he hadn’t imagined that civil unrest would affect another generation.
A team from the University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development has partnered with Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and other community organizations to track and assess the countywide public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The work by CCHD, part of KU’s Life Span Institute, is supported by a $40,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.