The Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (K-CART) at the University of Kansas, established in 2008 with private and public funds, is a new multidisciplinary center that promotes research and training on the causes, nature and management of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Committed to the highest standards of scientific rigor, K-CART will generate new scientific discoveries about ASD, disseminate research-based practices by training professionals, practitioners and families who serve children and adults with autism, and provide clinical services through the Center for Child Health and Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Center Priorities and Impact
Researching the Neurobehavioral Basis of Autism
Impact: Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience research holds the greatest potential for uncovering the causes of ASD, ultimately leading to preventing the disorder.
Identifying the primary neural or cognitive basis for ASD remains elusive. The greatest promise for major scientific breakthroughs likely rests with the behavioral and cognitive neuroscience of ASD. A renowned and dedicated group of University of Kansas researchers will come together through K-CART to advance science in this crucial area.
Research to Improve the Management of ASD
Impact: New work by K-CART will include larger clinical trials and interdisciplinary collaborations to greatly expand knowledge and develop proven strategies to manage ADS.
A second priority area of research concerns the careful and rigorous evaluation of interventions to improve the outcomes of individuals with ASD and families. Partners for the autism initiative have conducted important research to address the core features of autism such as social-communication and behavioral interventions, language disorders in children and the genetics of language acquisition and augmentative communication systems.
Training for Early Detection of ASD
Impact: More children will be identified and linked to appropriate services at a time when we can have the greatest effect on their development
It is critical to detect ASD as early as possible, optimally by the age of 12-18 months. During the last decade, multiple screening tools for ASD were developed with little emphasis on how to implement or validate them in real-world situations. Training individuals, especially pediatricians, to implement, administer, and interpret screening tools will further early detection and earlier use of strategies to manage ASD.
Training to Deliver Interventions for Managing ASD
Impact: Providers across the state and region who are delivering services will be equipped to use the most recent empirically-validated treatments for individuals with ASD.
An important mission of K-CART is to facilitate the training of professionals who will be able to deliver evidence-based practices to manage ASD. Training will focus on interventions to improve communication, social skills, and adaptive functions in individuals with ASD. In addition, training will encompass skills across the life span for persons with ASD.
Building the Capacity for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinical Services
Impact: Students graduating from Kansas colleges and universities will be equipped to pose and answer important research questions related to ASD and deliver appropriate empirically-based services to this population. These students will also have the leadership capabilities to change systems of care and education and meet critical needs in under served areas in a family-centered, culturally competent fashion
Important to the Autism initiative is the ability to mentor young investigators and to increase the numbers of highly trained professionals to serve persons with ASD and their families. KUMC’s Center for Child Health and Development (CCHD) is a primary interdisciplinary training site for graduate students. Long-term trainees spend at least a year in the clinic and another 90-100 students rotate through for training in various developmental disabilities including autism. K-CART includes CCHD as a major partner in building capacity throughout the state, including clinical services for children and families from diverse cultural backgrounds and families who do not speak English.
Finally, mothers, fathers, siblings, and children and youth with Autism will benefit from the K-CART research and training as will as extended family, community members, school district personnel and service providers. We expect these benefits to extend across the life span from early screening and early intervention to school-based services to future supported employment and independent living.
The Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (K-CART) is led by Director Debra Kamps, Ph.D. and Co-Director Kathryn Ellerbeck, M.D., MPH, FAAP, Ph.D.
K-CART has more than 40 affiliated scientists and research-clinicians from both campuses and the unique urban community-based research center, the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project and the Life Span Institute at Parsons, which has distinguished itself in developing research-based human services for underserved parts of Kansas.
Debra Kamps, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Life Span Institute; Associate Director, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, KU Life Span Institute
Dr. Kamp's expertise includes a long history of published research on students with autism and serious behavior disorders and effective instructional, behavioral and social interventions for students with disabilities.
Dr. Ellerbeck has been involved in the diagnosis and management of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder for 20 years. She is the immediate past president of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council of Children with Disabilities’ Autism Subcommittee.