Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Nisonger Center

Program Orientation

The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) division of the Psychology Graduate Program has a unique status among the seven areas in the Department of Psychology. Its faculty members are housed at the Nisonger Center and contribute to the missions of both the Department of Psychology and the Nisonger Center. The Nisonger Center is one of 67 federally funded University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) in the country. UCEDDs are interdisciplinary centers with a mandate of conducting research, providing training, and giving service in the field of developmental disabilities. Administratively, the Nisonger Center falls under the OSU Medical Center’s Office of Health Sciences. Although its Psychology faculty members are employees of the Nisonger Center, their tenure initiating unit (TIU) is the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and they are held to the same standard of scholarly excellence as the rest of the Department of Psychology.

The science of psychology fully applies to individuals with IDD, just as in non-disabled groups, although it is a specialization in its own right. The IDD population comprises individuals with intellectual disability (about 1% of the U.S. population), autism spectrum disorders (approaching 1%), and a myriad of other conditions, such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Although only about 3% of the US, this clinical population is very important because of the extensive services it requires (educational, behavioral, psychiatric, occupational, and physical) and because most of these individuals will require various forms of support throughout their lifetimes.

The IDD Psychology area offers graduate training in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). IDD Psychology (ASPPB designated) is ideal for students who are interested in any area of research relevant to IDD. Areas in which students have specialized in the past include instrument development, social supports, problem behavior, applied behavior analysis, sleep disorders, aggression, dual diagnosis, and autism spectrum disorder. On a limited basis, admission is available within the IDD program for a joint IDD–Clinical track. The IDD-Clinical (APA-Approved) joint track is designed for students interested in adult issues in IDD/clinical psychology. There are relatively few admissions for this specialization. The IDD program espouses the scientist-practitioner model of education and training. Students who graduate from this program will be well equipped to pursue a career in IDD psychology as a researcher, administrator, or to provide psychological services. They will have experience in conducting research, and they are expected to present results at professional conferences, and to publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals. They will be particularly knowledgeable in areas such as etiology of developmental disabilities (e.g., intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder), psychological and physical characteristics of these populations, assessment and diagnosis, and prevention and treatment approaches. In addition to having experience in conducting scientific research and becoming knowledgeable in the abovementioned areas, they receive in-depth clinical training. Graduates are expected to be proficient in functional behavior analysis, diagnosis, and treatment of behavioral and/or psychological problems often encountered by children and adults with IDD. They develop solid knowledge and skills in evidence-based practice, and they have research skills to extend the boundaries and application of this knowledge. Graduates of the IDD program are well positioned to adapt to the changing needs of professional practice in the field.

Program of Study

Students write a research-based master's thesis in intellectual or developmental disabilities after two years of graduate study, then prepare for the Candidacy Examination (CE). Successful completion of the CE admits them to Ph.D. candidacy. The doctoral dissertation is based on research into a specific aspect of developmental disabilities.

Students in the clinical track are expected to complete a one year of predoctoral clinical internship. Internships are available in the fields of intellectual and developmental disabilities.


The hub of program activity, training, and research is the Nisonger Center, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities devoted to the interdisciplinary study of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Clinical and research experience are also available through Nationwide Children's Hospital, the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and community-based psychological services.

Financial Support

Fellowships and teaching associate positions are available to first year graduate students on a competitive basis. Research assistant positions are available through the OSU Nisonger Center and allied programs. Employment at community agencies is available after completion of the master's degree.


Affiliated Faculty

Emeritus Faculty