University of Kansas Researchers Honored for Contributions to Disability Studies

July 7, 2020

Four University of Kansas researchers join three former presidents and four former senators of the United States as honorees among 87 recognized for transforming the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities during the past 20 years in the U.S.

The honors, compiled in the National Honors Recognizing Significant Contributions in the Field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2020, include essays highlighting trends in the field. A consortium of intellectual disability organizations collaborated on the report, which comes 20 years after the group's first report looking back on 20th century achievements in the field.

Honorees were selected for being engaged in nationally significant research, practice, public policy and advocacy initiatives that enhanced quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and former presidents Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the list included the following KU Life Span Institute affiliated current and retired faculty:

  • Karrie Shogren, professor in the Department of Special Education and director of the KU Center on Developmental Disabilities. Shogren's work focuses on practices that support an inclusive education for children with severe disabilities and self-determination across the life span.
  • Susan Palmer, research professor emerita and research affiliate of the Life Span Institute, is recognized for her overall contribution through research, teaching and public policy. Palmer's research includes effective strategies for inclusive education for children with moderate to severe disabilities and self-directed learning for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the life span.
  • James Thompson, professor in the Department of Special Education, senior scientist at the Beach Center on Disability and associate director of the KU Center on Developmental Disabilities. Thompson's work has focused on a model of assessing and responding to the pattern and intensity of supports that are needed by a person to achieve his or her goals.
  • Michael Wehmeyer, Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor in Special Education, chair of the Department of Special Education and director of the Beach Center on Disability. Wehmeyer has advanced current work in the practice, research, teaching and technical assistance that supports and promotes self-determination and advocacy.

"Each of these individuals has made exceptional contributions to the field of developmental disabilities, and each is truly deserving of this recognition," said John Colombo, professor of psychology, Life Span Institute director and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. "KU has long been a leader in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the fact that a cluster of scholars affiliated with LSI are receiving this honor represents a testament to our continued excellence in this area of work."
The 2020 recognition committee has representation from the following organizations: American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, The American Network of Community Options and Resources, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, The National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy, ADAPT Community Network, Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, the New York Interagency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation, NYSARC, and the VISIONS Center for Creative Management.

Article written by Jen Humphrey, Life Span Institute, University of Kansas