Strengthening Children's Lives Through Science and Community Engagement

Debra Kamps

Senior Scientist, Emeritus
Primary office:
Life Span Institute
Juniper Gardens Children's Project
444 Minnesota Avenue, Suite 300
Kansas City, KS 66101-2914



  • Evidence-based interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders and emotional/behavioral disorders
  • Positive behavior supports and classroom management intervention
  • Effective instruction and cooperative learning strategies
  • Peer mediated interventions to promote social-communication development
  • Technology to enhance interventions for children and adults with disabilities

Selected Publications

Selected Grants

Ongong Research Support

  1. H133A130032 - D. Kamps (PI), H. Wills (CoPI),  R. Mason (CoPI), L. Heitzman-Powell (CoPI), J. Buzhardt (CoPI), and B. Mason (CoPI) - 10/01/13-09/30/18 - I-CONNECT Plus.
  2. University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.  (KsSRS) - Kamps (CoPI) Reese (CoPI) Heitzman-Powell (PI) - 01/01/12-06/30/15 - Autism Training Program  - Website
  3. H133G090136 - Kamps (PI) Wills (CoPI) - 03/01/10-02/28/15 - Postdoctoral Special Education Research Training in Urban Communities: A Research to Practice Model 
  4. H324A120344 - Kamps (CoPI) Wills (PI) - 07/01/12-06/30/16 - A Multi-Site Efficacy Trial of the Class-wide Function-related Intervention Teams “CW-FIT”: A Research to Practice Agenda for Students with and At Risk for EBD
Outgoing Research Support
  1. H327A100082 - Kamps (Co-PI) Wills (PI) - 10/01/10-09/30/13 - I-Connect: Web-based Solutions to Self-management and Support Connections for High School Students with Learning or Emotional/Behavioral Disorders 
  2. R324A090091 - Kamps (PI) Heitzman-Powell, and Thiemann-Bourque (Co-PI's) - 03/01/09-02/28/13 - Peer Networks Intervention: Improving Social-Communication, Literacy and Adaptive Behaviors for Young Children with ASD - Article to support work: A comprehensive peer network intervention to improve social communication of children with autism spectrum disorders: A randomized trial in kindergarten and first grade (PDF)
  3. R324C080006 - Kamps (CoPI) Wills (PI) - 07/01/08-06/30/13 - National Research and Development Center on Serious Behavior Disorders at the Secondary Level
  4. ​​

Selected Awards & Honors


Debra Kamps, director of the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training and associate director and senior scientist at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, was the 2009 recipient of the University of Kansas Research Achievement Award.

The award is given annually to a full-time KU academic staff researcher working within an academic department or research center. Kamps was recognized at today’s Research and Graduate Studies convocation with a plaque presented by Richard Lariviere, executive vice chancellor and provost. The award includes $10,000 in research funds.

K-CART and Juniper Gardens are two of 13 centers that make up KU’s Life Span Institute. To qualify for the award, the recipient’s research should have “significant influence in his or her field and/or should represent a productive record of important research that has expanded intellectual or societal insights. A substantial portion of the work for which the award is given must have been done at KU.”

In his nomination letter, Charles Greenwood, director of Juniper Gardens, wrote, “Dr. Kamps truly exemplifies KU’s expectations of a scholar’s contribution to research, service and teaching. She continues to have a significant impact on her field through her productive record of research.”

Tim Lewis of the University of Missouri-Columbia described Kamps as “always searching to do better, answer difficult questions, and serve children, youth and their families by continually improving the knowledge base and shaping the field of special education.”

Another nominator, Bob Algozzine of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, added, “Her sound scholarship and creative productivity are models for students preparing for careers improving the lives of individuals with disabilities.”

Kamps came to KU in 1974 as a graduate student in special education, a program consistently ranked among the best in the country. After receiving master’s and doctoral degrees at KU, and after two years with the Kansas State Department of Education in special education administration, she joined the staff at Juniper Gardens as a research project principal investigator in 1983.

During the past 25 years, Kamps has been an investigator with the Kansas Mental Retardation Research Center and a courtesy assistant professor in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science and the Department of Special Education. She became associate director of Juniper Gardens in 1994 and founding director of K-CART in 2007.

In addition to her KU duties, Kamps is an associate editor for Behavioral Disorders and the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. She has served as principal investigator or project director for nearly 15 grant-funded research projects since 1983, teaches courses in applied behavioral science and special education and is the author or co-author of more than 80 articles and papers.

Past recipients of the Research Achievement Award are David VanderVelde, former director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, and Rick Miller, associate scientist in the Exploration Services Section of the Kansas Geological Survey.

Debra Kamps, PhD. in 2012 was one of 6 recipients of KU's Women of the Year Awards presented by the Emily Taylor Resource Center
Dr. Debra Kamps is an outstanding research scientist whose 35-year career has benefit children with severe behavioral, emotional and developmental disabilities through the development of research-based practices for educators and other practitioners, families, individuals themselves and hence the field, the state of Kansas, and beyond. She is noted by colleagues and students as a gifted leader, leading by example, mentoring, and excelling at balancing research objectives with the demands on practitioners and research partners. Her career has been a model of research-to-practice and devoted service to the disability community.

What's New
Job Opportunities
  • Postdoctoral Researchers (Early Intervention): Juniper Gardens Children’s Project (JGCP) is recruiting 2 postdoctoral researchers interested in developing expertise in designing, implementing and disseminating research carried out while developing evidence-based practices with community partners focused on early intervention, early care, and early education settings. The postdoctoral position is a full-time (100% FTE), 2 years, research-dedicated fellowship. Postdoctoral researchers will learn and develop new advances in the prevention and intervention of learning and behavior problems in young children. For more information and to apply online, click hereKU is an EO/AAE
  • Student Hourly (Data Collectors): Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, a community-based research institute affiliated with the University of Kansas, is conducting a research program aimed at evaluating how a Practice Based Coaching model (Literacy 3D) can be used to enhance the literacy focus of early childhood (EC) teachers through data-driven decision making and strategies that boost children’s opportunities to respond in literacy activities. We are seeking 4-10 student hourly employees who will be responsible for data collection activities with preschool students and teachers, including administering literacy assessments to children, observing classroom instruction and interactions, and assisting in the preparation and delivery of data reports in the Kansas City Metro, as well as data management and entry at our offices in downtown Kansas City, KS. For more information and to apply online, click hereKU is an EO/AAE
  • Assistant/Associate Research Professor - Statistician: The KU Life Span Institute at Juniper Gardens is seeking to hire an Assistant or Associate Research Professor with statistical skills to work in a team environment on a range of educational and applied research projects. For more information and to apply, click here.  KU is an EO/AAE
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