Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


Nisonger Center

Program Orientation

The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) area of the Psychology Graduate Program has a unique status among the eight 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 mission of conducting research, providing training, and offering clinical services to indidviduals with developmental disabilities and their families. Administratively, the Nisonger Center falls under the OSU 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, autism spectrum disorder, and a myriad of other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as various genetic disorders, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Although only 3% of the US, this clinical population is very important because of the extensive services it requires and supports required over their lifespan.

The IDD Psychology area offers graduate training in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). IDD Psychology 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, the co-occurrence of mental health problems and IDD, and parent training. On a limited basis, admission is available within the IDD program for a joint IDD–Clinical track (APA-Approved). There are few admissions for this specialized joint track. The IDD program espouses the clinical science 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 clinician. 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 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, students receive in-depth clinical training. Graduates are expected to be proficient in functional behavior analysis, diagnosis, and treatment of behavioral and/or mental health 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 for successful careers as clinical scientists 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 an area of IDD psychology. Students in the clinical track are expected to complete a one year of pre-doctoral 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. Clinical and research experience are also available through Nationwide Children's Hospital, the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and at other sites in and around Columbus.

Financial Support

IDD students are eligible for University and Department funding. Research assistant positions are available through the OSU Nisonger Center and allied programs.  


Affiliated Faculty

Emeritus Faculty