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NIDRR Funds the RRTCADD for Another Five Years


The Institute on Disability and Human Development will receive $4.25 million from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to study lifespan health and functions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The five-year award extends research at UIC’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities directed by Tamar Heller, professor and head of the Department of Disability and Human Development.

“It builds on prior accomplishments, but takes a lifespan approach, starting with early adulthood through old age,” said Heller. “Health and function in later life depends on life-long health behavior and environmental influences. Most of the center’s research targets adults with developmental disabilities (DD), due to the great need to develop model programs to support these individuals and their families.”

Research will focus on age-related health changes among adults with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy and syndromes such as Fragile X, Prader Willi, Williams and Down syndrome.

Projects will include, among others, studying the impact of behavior patterns on health and function; developing interventions to prevent falls and aid walking; and testing of various approaches to community-based health promotion. Other studies will examine ways to promote the health of family caregivers and to help individuals and families direct their own supports.

Project partners include Special Olympics International, which will provide matching funds for a longitudinal study of health behavior using extensive data collected on athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and Easter Seals, which will provide sites around the nation for environmental interventions to improve health and increase community participation among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Most people with these types of disabilities have a life-long need for support and live with their families,” said Heller, “these individuals are more likely to experience poorer health and have limited access to quality health care and health promotion programs. As persons with DD age, an urgent need exists for them to have access to quality supports that address their age-related health and social changes.”

The 15-year-old Center’s work includes providing an information clearinghouse for the public on disability issues. An interdisciplinary team of scholars and professional researchers participate in the Center’s work. Key principal investigators include Beth Marks, Alan, Factor, James Rimmer, Kelly Hsieh, Glenn Fujiura, and Matthew Janicki, IDHD; Joy Hammel, occupational therapy, UIC, Sandra Magana, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Phil Davidson, University of Rochester.

For more information on the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with DD and to learn about its programs, please visit rrtcadd.org, or call 800.996.8845 or 312.413.1520.