Instructor talking with child

The KU Life Span Institute brings together researchers 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. We work toward interventions and independence for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We seek the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.  We research solutions to attain equity in the classroom, treat addiction, reduce childhood obesity and more to ensure a healthy, prospering communities. In addition to this internationally-renowned research program, thousands of people benefit from the direct services, training and consultations provided by the KU Life Span Institute and its research centers.

The Life Span Institute includes 12 affiliated research centers and an affiliate in Peru. It is organized around a central office that provides research, finance, technology and communications support to more than 100 investigators. 


Most of the easy problems in the behavioral and biological sciences have been solved. Today the important problems are increasingly found and solved at the intersection of many disciplines. The Life Span Institute stands at such a convergence. Our mission is to discover knowledge about human health and development. This mission can only be achieved by problem-driven collaborations across many disciplines.


The Life Span Institute began as the Kansas Bureau of Child Research. The university appointed Richard "Dick" Schiefelbush as the director in 1956. In 1990, it expanded to become the Life Span Institute, creating one of the premier research institutes in the nation on human and community development and disabilities. 

The Institute has had three directors: Stephen R. Schroeder, from 1990 until his retirement in 2001, Steven F. Warren, from 2000 to March 2008, when he was appointed vice provost for research and graduate studies at the University of Kansas, and John Colombo, who became the Institute’s third director in September 2008.


The Life Span Institute attracts more combined federal, state and private dollars than any other designated research center at the University of Kansas, drawing $30.7 million in sponsored project support in FY 2019. 

Administrative and Research Locations

The Institute’s central office is in the Robert Dole Human Development Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence with components at the John T. Stewart Children’s Center and Malott Hall.

The Institute also operates in Kansas City at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City (Juniper Gardens Children’s Project) at the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Robert E. Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center and Center for Child Health and Development and at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus (Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training). A major center is also located at the Life Span Institute in Parsons, Kansas.

Much of the work of the Institute is accomplished in and directly benefits underserved Kansas City neighborhoods and rural Kansas counties. Several projects are collaborations with researchers in other parts of the state, region, country and world and are regional, national or international in scope.


More information about Life Span Institute research, people and achievements can be found in our news section

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