The Middle Years: Learning, working, parenting, participating in community

The Middle Years: Learning, working, parenting, participating in community

In the 1960s, LSI researchers were among the first in the nation to develop what they called “community research” on human behavior in the Kansas City, Kansas urban core. Working in partnership with the Juniper Gardens neighborhood, they particularly focused on parenting, public health and, especially, improving teaching and learning in low-income schools as a fulcrum to break the poverty cycle.

Then, the research groups were initially housed in the basement of a liquor store. Today, in the same neighborhood, the gleaming new Children’s Campus of Kansas City is a testament to the standing of LSI’s Juniper Garden’s Children’s Project. Scientists like Debra Kamps, Maura Linas and Howard Wills currently conduct research on student behavior issues. For example, Kamps and colleagues recently reported a successful research-to-practice model that greatly improved the behavior of students with or at risk for severe behavior disorders in high-risk urban classrooms.

Wayne Sailor and Amy McCart of the LSI’s Beach Center on Disability helped pioneer the idea of creating a “whole
school” culture based on positive behavior support to teach appropriate school behavior—in and out of the classroom. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commended a Washington, D.C. school using the Schoolwide Applications Model this year. Rachel Freeman trains a cadre of positive behavior support specialists across the state among developmental disabilities, child welfare and mental health professionals.

LSI scientists Judy Carta and Kathryn Bigelow are testing the idea of parenting support via cell phone text messages to young, often transient, low-income single mothers. Jay Buzhardt and Linda Heitzman-Powell are exploring telemedicine to coach rural parents of children with autism in rural areas of Kansas and Alaska.

Michael Wehmeyer, Susan Palmer and Wendy Parent are studying how young adults with intellectual disabilities can transition to employment. Parent’s Girls at Work project resulted in employment or post-secondary enrollment for 44 young Kansas women and several participating schools are continuing the Girls at Work curriculum.

The Work Group on Community Health and Development pioneered the study of behavioral change on a community scale. Currently researchers Steven Fawcett, Jerry Schultz and Vicki Collie-Akers are concerned with Wyandotte County, Kan., one of the least healthy counties in the state, using their expertise to help grass-root and government groups mobilize to increase health care access, healthy food sources, exercise and nutrition education.