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,” has been rescheduled and will be held at 3 pm October 14. 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 Frieden, 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.
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.
ADA30: Look Back, Look forward
3 pm Wednesday, October 14
A virtual panel discussion about the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its future.
Drunk in love: genes, romantic relationships, and alcohol misuse
10:30 am Friday, October 16
Jessica E. Salvatore, Ph.D.,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Fall Seminar Series, Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment
The COVID-19 pandemic has created new perils and challenges for people experiencing substance use disorders and addictive behaviors. Social distancing and isolation can trigger loneliness, anxiety and depression. These circumstances have put some “recreational users” at risk for developing addictions and caused some in recovery from addictions to relapse.
At the same time, the pandemic has made it nearly impossible for mutual-help (e.g., AA, NA) recovery groups to gather in person, forcing a scramble to provide remote support through platforms like Zoom.
The American Speech-Language Hearing Foundation has awarded Jena McDaniel, post-doctoral fellow at the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training, a 2020 New Investigator Research Grant. The $10,000 award will fund research on improving the vocal production and language development for children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.