Barbara Wheeler, PhD

USC UCEDD at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles
University of Southern California
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
4650 Sunset Boulevard
Mailstop #53
Los Angeles, CA 90027-6062
Phone: 323-361-3829
Email: [email protected]
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Last Updated: February 14, 2019

Barbara Wheeler

Specialty Resource Contacts: Racial Disparities
Discipline(s): Disability Studies
Education/Special Education
AUCD Council Membership: Multicultural Council
No Council Membership


Barbara Yoshioka Wheeler, Ph.D., R.N. is Special Education faculty for LEND, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and holds adjunct appointments in the USC Rossier School of Education and the USC School of Social Work. She served on the President's Committee on Mental Retardation for five-years during the Clinton administration, and is currently Chair of the Multi-Cultural Council for the Association of University Centers on Disability. She has a 30-year history with the UCEDD, focusing on a range of issues responding to the needs of underserved populations. In special education, she was a transition consultant for the Chanda Smith Consent Decree (LAUSD) and helped to establish the District Office for Transition Services (DOTS) and participated for 5 years in the disproportionality task force of LAUSD. She directed a 3-year ADD PNS project focusing on including students with IEPs in the service learning requirement of LAUSD, directed a 3-year OSEP-funded project to develop a national training curriculum to train Special Education Advocates with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. She is currently focusing on increasing the interests of students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math. She was the recipient of a Department of Justice Grant to develop training for law enforcement to interview victims and witnesses with significant disabilities and has trained over 6,000 police officers.

Much of her career has focused on studying and addressing racial disparities across many systems of service, starting with Black infant mortality research at Charles Drew Post-Graduate Medical School and then evaluating Black Infant Health Programs for the State of California for two years. Her recent work has focused on building capacity in minority community-based organizations to fill gaps in services for under-represented groups and organizing multi-cultural advocacy networks. She was key in obtaining one of 37 funded Partners in Research grants (A Model for Inclusion of Minorities in Bio-medical Research on Autism) under the NIH Public Trust Initiative. The community partner for this grant was Fiesta Educativa, a longstanding community resource for Latino families of children with disabilities whose access to mainstream services is limited by cultural and linguistic barriers. That grant was leveraged to receive a $1 million ARRA NIH Pathways to Translational Research Grant which focused on increasing the science literacy of Latino families of children with ASD. She is currently PI for a Minority Partnership grant with California State University Los Angeles, a minority serving institution. Under this grant, she is working with the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Natural and Social Sciences, Office of Students with Disabilities, and the Minority Opportunities in Research program, to organize strategies to bring CSULA's majority URM student population into the field of neuro-developmental disabilities and maternal child health. Wheeler's latest work is in the area of building the capacity of the Exceptional Family Member Program to better meet the needs of eligible service members and their families, under USC's Military Social Work Program.

Current Roles
•  Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC
• Co-PI, Disseminating Scientific Information on ASD to the Latino Community, NIH Pathways to Translational Research RC1, NIMH (C. Lajonchere, Autism Speaks and Research
• PI, USC UCEDD/CSULA Minority Partnership Grant, Administration on Developmental Disabilities
• Co-Investigator, Project Intersect: Addressing Health Disparities at the Intersection of Race/Ethnicity and Disability-AUCD.CDC RTOI (W. Horner Johnson, OHSU, PI)
• PI, Exploring Careers in MCH/Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Health Careers Training Project, Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, Healthcare Workforce Development Division

• Ph.D. Special Education, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (and UCLA Graduate School of Education)
• M.A., Early Childhood Special Education, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
• BSN, Nursing, University of California San Francisco

Areas of Interest
• Racial Disparities and DD
• Community Engagement of Underrepresented minorities with disabilities in bio-medical research
• Community Capacity Building of Minority CBOs
• Students with Disabilities in STEM
• Minority Pipeline into MCH/Neurodevelopmental Disabilities fields and into academic institutions
• Science Literacy for underserved minority families of children with DD