About Us

Our Mission

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 multidisciplinary center that promotes research and training on the causes, nature and management of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). K-CART generates new scientific discoveries about ASD, disseminates research-based practices by training professionals, practitioners and families who serve children and adults with autism, and refers individuals to clinical services through the KU 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 ASD.

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 underserved 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 well 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.


K-CART Director

The Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training is directed by Matthew Mosconi, PhD, Associate Professor, Associate Scientist Clinical Child Psychology Program, Life Span Institute, Departments of Applied Behavioral Science and Psychology. Dr. Mosconi leads a program of research focused on understanding behavioral and brain processes associated with autism spectrum (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental disorders. Our research utilizes state-of-the-art methods to understand brain mechanisms that contribute to disruptions in behavioral and cognitive development, to develop biologically informed approaches for identifying neurodevelopmental disorders as early in childhood as possible, and to develop new therapies that target brain-behavior mechanisms across early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

K-CART Leadership Team

Rene Jamison, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor,
Director, Leadership Education in Neurological Disabilities

Linda Heitzman-Powell, PhD, MPH, BCBA-D, Research
Associate Professor, Director of Community Research,
Center for Child Health and Development

Sean Swindler, MSEd, Director of Community Program
Development and Evaluation, Kansas Center For Autism
Research and Training

Kathryn Unruh, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, KU Life Span Institute

Robin Shafer, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, KU Life Span Institute

Message from the Director