Ann Turnbull

Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor
Department of Special Education, School of Education
Beach Center on Disability, Life Span Institute
Primary office:
Haworth Hall, room 3111

Expertise and Current Research Activity

Approximately 17 million families and other caregivers provide care to children with disabilities. These families often face extraordinary challenges related to medical, educational, behavioral, and social needs. These challenges are especially intense for parents of children with autism and intellectual disabilities.

In general, my research has focused on developing (a) new and unique tools to measure family quality of life and (b) evidence-based services and supports to enable families of children with disabilities to achieve family quality of life. In particular, I focus on several major sources of intense family stress including (a) developing trusting partnerships with professionals, (b) locating and coordinating services from multiple service systems, (c) addressing problem behavior, and (d) guiding families in helping their children transition to adulthood in terms of employment and independent living.

This work was the basis of my selection as one of 36 individuals who “changed the course of history for individuals with developmental disabilities” in the 20th century.

Why Study at the University of Kansas

It has been and continues to be a privilege to be on the faculty in the Department of Special Education which has been consistently ranked over the last decade as one of the top two doctoral programs in the United States. I want to highlight here four factors that I think particularly contribute to the national ranking and to the Department of Special Education being an absolutely outstanding place to receive a graduate education.

  • First, there is a research culture in which faculty and students participate on a continuous basis in the research process from the beginning point of conceptualizing research questions to conducting research to writing it up and then to translating its results for the benefit of ultimate stakeholders. Thus, students do not just take research courses but rather receive their education in the ongoing pursuit of new knowledge.
  • Secondly, the faculty, staff, and students work together synergistically in generating grants. There is an amazing "know-how" in terms of accessing external funds, and people continually expand their expertise by learning from each other.
  • Thirdly, faculty and staff are down-to-earth, approachable, student-centered, and helpful. Thus, it is a non-intimidating environment to push the limits of what one might think one's best is to whole new levels of growth, insight, and even wisdom.
  • Fourthly, these departmental characteristics are situated within competent and caring university and community contexts. Thus, majoring in special education at the University of Kansas does not merely translate into quality education but, indeed, into quality of life as well.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times