Research Themes

The Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center's four research themes evolved from a few collaborative projects into major research enterprises under the guidance of some of the Center’s research leaders. Our Themes today remain vibrant, generative, and growing, primarily because of the strong leadership qualities of our Theme Leaders.

Theme 1: Language, Communication Disorders and Cognition in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is led by Mabel Rice, the Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies. She is internationally recognized for her work in language acquisition in children with developmental disabilities, and was the first to develop a test to successfully diagnose Specific Language Impairment in children ages 3 to 8. Her research interests follow directly from the early Bureau of Child Research programs, providing outstanding example of KIDDRC research continuity.

Theme 2: Risk, Intervention, and Prevention in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is led by Judith Carta, a Professor in Special Education and Senior Scientist at the Life Span Institute based at Juniper Gardens Children's Project (JGCP) at the Children's Campus of Kansas City. Theme 2 originated from the seminal work in behavioral intervention initially done at JGCP, and Dr. Carta carries on this tradition with her research on intervention in disadvantaged children. While Theme 2 was initially populated primarily by behavioral investigations, this theme has proven durable as our translational research programs grow: it now includes therapeutic interventions, nutritional interventions, drug use as a risk factor, and other areas that can contribute to risk, provide an intervention, or prevent IDD.

Theme 3: Neurobiology of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is led by Paul Cheney, Professor and Chair of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. Paul is a preeminent neuroscientist focusing on the neurobiological basis of movement disorders.  He is a longstanding KIDDRC investigator and served as Co-Director and Smith Center Director from 1989-2002, prior to Smith assuming these roles. He remains a well-funded and senior leader in the neurosciences.

Theme 4: Cellular and Molecular Biology of Early Development, is led by Leslie Heckert, the Osborne Endowed Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. Dr. Heckert is a leader in the field of cell signaling and gene activation associated with fertilization and organogenesis, and well respected by her peers. As Theme 4 leader, she represents a long history of excellence in reproductive biology dating back to the 1950s.

      The Theme Leaders are responsible for scientific leadership within their respective areas; this includes promoting collaborative research projects and initiatives, representing their thematic area, coordinating thematic seminars, and advising the Center Directors of new opportunities, changes in research directions, problems impacting Theme research, issues concerning resources, and other matters.

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