History of the Institute

From Deinstitutionalization to Communities for a Lifetime—A Visionary Institute

In 2020, the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community celebrated 50 years of work in disability through research, education, and service. Our work is about putting good ideas into everyday practice in schools and community settings to improve choices and quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. Roots of the Indiana Institute's current direction lie in its history.


The "Mental Retardation" Developmental Training Center (MRDTC) was established in 1970 when Indiana University received funding under the 1963 Developmental Disabilities Construction Act to establish a service and training program in intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since its inception, the MRDTC (shortened to DTC) has been an active member of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), then known as University Associated Facilities (UAF), a national organization linking a network of interdisciplinary center working to advance policy and practice for individuals with disabilities and their families.

1967 - Facilities Construction

Construction began on the Developmental Training Center at Indiana University, Bloomington in December of 1967. Funding for construction was approved through the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Public Services grant in the amount of $1,016,879. The purpose of the DTC, according to Dr. Delton C. Beir, then director of the Psychological Clinic and Graduate Training Program in Clinical Psychology at Indiana University and “father” of the design of the residence center, was to “educate children with disabilities for life in a community.”

Federal funding to establish a program at the IU Medical Center in Indianapolis was also secured. The two integrated facilities would provide research and training in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Children from across Indiana would undergo diagnostic evaluations at the Riley Child Development Center and from those children, 54 were selected to participate in the Bloomington-based program focusing on the behavioral rather than the bio-medical facets of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additions were also made to the University School for classroom instruction of those children housed at the DTC.

1970 - Funding for Operations

Due to a lack of operational funding, the Center remained idle for over a year. In June of 1970, federal funding was secured through Social Rehabilitation Services, Division of "Mental Retardation," U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) and matching funds from Indiana University to partially fund staffing and operations of the Center. The Center was under the direction of Dr. Milton Wisland, M.Ed., Ed.D.

1971 - Assessment and Case Management

Henry Schroeder, Ed.D., joined the Developmental Training Center as the facilities second director in 1971. The primary focus of the DTC at that time was to address the need for assessment and the case management of children with developmental disabilities.

1973 – Deinstitutionalization

The DTC developed a deinstitutionalization project with the Indiana Department of Mental Health and Muscatatuck State Hospital to move adults with severe disabilities to community settings.

1974 - Instructional Materials Center

The Instructional Materials Center was established in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Education. During that time, four counties surrounding Bloomington and Monroe County received the benefits of this program.

1975 - Early Childhood Program

The Community Program of Preschool and Parent Education (PREPARE) was established which provided an early intervention model program for infants and toddlers as part of the Handicapped Children's Early Education Program (HCEEP).

1978 - Project ASSIST

Training materials for classroom paraprofessionals were developed by DTC staff. ASSIST: Associate Instructional Support for Teachers provided training and skill building for those who worked as instructional associates in special education classrooms throughout Indiana. ASSIST was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Indiana Department of Education, Division of Special Education.


In its second decade, the DTC began to focus on new program development and systems change. While the developmental disabilities field as a whole shifted away from institutionalization, an emphasis on community membership across the life span emerged in the DTC’s philosophy and work.

1981 - Indiana Resource Center for Autism

The state of Indiana made an important commitment to the DTC when the Indiana Legislature appropriated funds to establish a statewide resource center on autism. Initially, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) focused on supporting the return of children with autism, who were residing in out-of-state facilities, to Indiana.

1985 - School Integration

The DTC moved secondary students with substantial disabilities into least restrictive environments. Starting with the publication of a position paper; A New Future for Children with Substantial Handicaps: The Second Wave of Least Restrictive Environment, the Center assisted the Division in refocusing public school special education programs to emphasize integrated classes, functional curricula, and community-based training experiences.

1986 - The Collaborative Work Lab

The DTC began to investigate ways that computer technology could be applied to its technical assistance mission, particularly in the area of planning and policy development. In 1986, the Collaborative Work Lab, a computer-based electronic meeting room for use by human service organizations was established.

1987 - Name Change

The Developmental Training Center retooled and refocused to reflect changes at the national level regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities into the Least Restrictive Environment. As a result, the DTC, no longer a residential facility, changed its name to the Institute for the Study of Developmental Disabilities (ISDD).

1988 - Center on Aging

With visions of a life span approach, the ISDD in 1988 established a program that focused on aging persons with disabilities. The Center for Aging Persons with Developmental Disabilities was created to provide research and training in the areas of health and functional wellness and community membership for aging persons with disabilities.

1989 - Higher Education Consortium

As the number of integrated programs for students with disabilities increased throughout Indiana, the ISDD played an integral part in the development of a higher education consortium designed to infuse information about least restrictive environment into teacher training programs. These training programs were developed to include instruction for the advocacy and implementation of best educational practices in public school classrooms serving students with severe disabilities.


In the 1990s, with ongoing support from the state and continued grant acquisitions at the state and federal levels, the ISDD built upon its past experiences and relationships to be a valued participant in the movement toward creating inclusive communities for persons with disabilities throughout the state of Indiana and the nation.

1990 - Center on Planning and Policy

The ISDD's Center for Planning and Policy Studies was created to develop policy and establish interagency initiatives in the area of transition services for youth with disabilities. The 1990s saw this Center supporting interagency and consumer collaboration in local communities and in state policy development, such as the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within Indiana.

1992 - Initiatives in Transition

The Institute took on an initiative for systems change in the arena of services to adults with severe disabilities. Through a collaborative effort with the Indiana Division on Disability, Aging, and Rehabilitative Services and the U.S. Department of Education, the Indiana Employment Initiative (IEI) began working to effect broad improvements in the quality and availability of a program to enhance the employment outcomes of people with severe disabilities of all types in supported employment.

1995 - Redesigning Special Education Position Paper

As a follow up to the first position paper written in 1985, A New Future for Children with Substantial Handicaps: The Second Wave of Least Restrictive Environment, a group of understanding, accomplished, and experienced people from across Indiana gathered to discuss the restructuring of special education in the state. The discussion evolved into a discourse focused on restructuring education to meet the needs of all students. A second position paper was designed and developed from the discussions of this "think tank".

1996 - Mank Leads the ISDD

In the summer of 1996, David Mank, Ph.D., associate professor, College of Education at the University of Oregon, was appointed to the position of director of the Institute for the Study of Developmental Disabilities. Mank, the Institute's third director, assumed the directorship position from Henry J. Schroeder, who stepped down after 25 years of service. In addition to his duties as director of the Indiana Institute, Mank is a Full Professor in Indiana University's School of Education's program in Special Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

1997 - Supported Living Focus

Indiana as a state, in 1997, was still highly reliant on institutional residential settings for people with developmental disabilities. At that time, over 75% of funding in Indiana for residential services went to institutions and other congregate settings. The ISDD added a focus on supported living to try and reverse this statistic through research on the outcomes around supported living. This information helped to drive the state's shift from segregated to integrated lifestyles for all people with disabilities.

1998 - Indiana Institute Expands

The Institute expanded from seven to eight centers to better meet the needs of Hoosiers with disabilities. The Center for School and Community Integration expanded from one to two centers creating the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning (CELL) and the Center on Community Living and Careers (CCLC). CELL's objectives focused on improving school services for students ages 3-22 in the areas of organization and structure, leadership, curriculum and instruction, transition, positive behavior supports, inclusive school communities, and school change and improvement. CCLC program objectives focused on improving transition and adult services in the areas of person-directed planning, community living, integrated employment, community membership, organizational change, career development, and inclusive education.

1999 - Name Change

After a six month process of discussion and exchange with constituents and others, the Institute changed its name from the Institute for the Study of Developmental Disabilities (ISDD) to the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC). The name change to the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community better reflected the organization's vision of commitment and ongoing improvement toward the achievement of its mission.

Also in May of 1999, the Center for Aging Persons with Developmental Disabilities (CAPDD) changed its name to the Center on Aging and Community (CAC). Center staff determined that issues of importance to older persons such as retirement and semi-retirement activities, change in physical status, and late-life loss are best addressed within a community context.


As the dawn of a new millennium arose, the work of the Indiana Institute now spanned 30 years of putting good ideas into everyday life in schools and communities in the interest of people with disabilities and their families.

2000 - Indiana Inclusion Study

A three-year study that investigated the effects of inclusive programs for students without disabilities and students identified with mild disabilities was implemented by the IIDC. Students’ academic progress in reading and mathematics were compared using a curriculum-based measure. Study results indicated that students with and without disabilities educated in inclusive settings made as great or greater academic gains than students educated in schools that utilized more traditional, pull-out models for supporting students with disabilities.

2001 - CAPE Grant

A multi-faceted initiative between the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, the Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC), the Indiana University School of Education, and the IIDC was established to build community learning with an emphasis on family involvement and community literacy for children, birth through age 18. Supported by a five million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., the four-year Community Alliances to Promote Education (CAPE) project, supported three education-oriented initiatives that impacted Monroe County’s 11 townships. Initiative one created four family resource centers that provided early intervention and educational support for families with newborn and preschool children. Initiative two supported 10 elementary schools to develop and offer comprehensive child and family literacy programs. Initiative three funded 30 community asset-building grants aimed at middle and high school students with a focus on healthy development and educational success.

2002 - Day and Employment Services Outcome System

Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services asked the IIDC to develop a data system to replace the Indiana Community Employment Reporting System. The new system was designed to provide better information about the outcomes achieved by individuals with disabilities receiving services as well as their service providers. Additionally, data was collected on an individual service recipient basis rather than at a program level, special studies were implemented on targeted topics, and statewide and regional employment outcomes were measured.

2003 - Home Modification

With the aging of Indiana’s population and the state’s efforts to deinstitutionalize congregate care facilities, the Indiana Institute authored two surveys to address issues of home ownership, fair housing, and home modification for persons with and without disabilities across the state. Survey outcomes resulted in a number of program and policy recommendations at the local, regional, and state level to help improve the status of home modification services in Indiana to enable more Hoosiers to become, and/or remain, independent in their homes and active in their neighborhoods and communities.

2004 - Early Childhood Meeting Place

The IIDC's Early Childhood Center created the Early Childhood Meeting Place website as gateway to information, services, and resources for Indiana's early education professionals and families. The website featured an events calendar, a listing of early childhood research initiatives, early education career opportunities, news, and agency and organization profiles.

Also in 2004, the Indiana Department of Education contracted with the Indiana Institute to support its efforts to improve the educational results and outcomes for students with and without disabilities. Areas of focus included the use of a conceptual framework to guide systematic school improvement, unify systems of equity and excellence, sustain school change through a participatory research approach, and focus project outcomes at the state and local level.

2005 - Building Leadership Series

The IIDC's Center on Aging and Community utilized the Indiana Developmental Disabilities Network to develop, pilot, and disseminate a statewide leadership program for individuals with disabilities focusing on person-centered planning and self-advocacy. Through presentations, discussions, and interactive activities across three two-day workshops, 20 individuals developed skills to give voice toward greater independence and community leadership.

Also in 2005, in an effort to unify and coordinate Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration’s training efforts related to young children with disabilities, the IIDC and the state developed the Unified Training System (UTS). UTS provides a mechanism for the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), Division of Family and Children (DFC), Bureau of Child Development (BCD)/First Steps, and the Department of Education (DOE), Division of Exceptional Learners, to coordinate their training efforts into a comprehensive system of technical assistance to families and providers supporting children with special needs.

2006 - Indiana Education Project

The Indiana Education Project, a collaborative effort with local directors of special education, general educators, and organizations representing families, state education agencies, and community agencies, was established to address school restructuring efforts and implementation of effective programs around school inclusion, positive behavior supports, and transitions to support all students.

Also in 2006, the Benefits Information Network (BIN) was created to develop a network between all Indiana benefits counselors and providers to improve capacity in using federal and state work incentives. Activities included training curriculum development, evaluation of personnel regarding their knowledge and understanding of the programs, and ongoing information dissemination. Additionally, support and information dissemination to BIN personnel and Indiana work incentive coordinators on work incentives and community resources were provided.

2007 - ADA-Indiana

The Institute served as the fiscal agent for Indiana’s State ADA Steering Committee. The committee, comprised of representatives from the private sector, state agencies, universities, disability organizations, and disability advocates, promoted the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Also in 2007, the Indiana Recourse Center for Autism developed the Autism Advocates of Indiana Project designed to train law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and EMTs to recognize the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders in critical situations and react accordingly. Training kits were created to assist first responders (e.g., fire, police, and paramedics) in recognizing and appropriately dealing with encounters with individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Additionally in 2007, ASK Special Kids (ASK) partnered with the Indiana Institute to develop a family-to-family focused support network that connected families of children with disabilities to community resources. Family-to-Family Connections provided a website and Listserv as a way to exchange information and resources, a consumer involvement fund providing financial support for family members to acquire disability-related print materials and attend conferences and workshops, and cultivate a network of Parent Liaisons in First Steps clusters to information share with parents.

2008 - Direct Support Professionals

As Indiana transitioned more of its residents with disabilities into community-based settings, the need for more and better training to direct support professionals became a priority. The family and Social Services Administration, Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services contracted with the IIDC to develop educational opportunities for persons interested in careers in health and human services. Activities included the development of a competency-based curriculum and modules, development of a career ladders program with the Ivy Tech State College system, and a certificate program.

2009 - Project SEARCH

Teams of adult service provides, school systems, and local business provide internship experiences in preparation for competitive employment for transition-aged students with disabilities. Project SEARCH teams worked with students to hone skills in interviewing, learning expectations of employment, acquiring specific skills, and acclimating to job-site cultures. In addition to in-class instruction, interns work a minimum of three eight-week rotations.


Since 1970, the IIDC has been a leader in the transfer of research and new knowledge in disability from the university setting to the field in Indiana and nationally. Our work includes a lifespan approach in the areas of policy development and analysis, statewide training and technical assistance, creating and implementing innovations, active involvement with all stakeholders and alliance with government agencies in implementation of best practices, and solidarity with families and self-advocates with disabilities.

2010 - Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG)

Funding from Indiana's Medicaid Infrastructure Grant in collaboration with Vocational Rehabilitation Services, provided training and technical assistance to Benefits Information Network (BIN) Liaisons in Indiana. The network improved the ability of persons with disabilities to use federal and state work incentives.

Additionally in 2010, an initiative funded through the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services, local businesses such as Lowes and Walgreens, collaborate with service providers to recruit and hire people with disabilities. Corporate Job Development provided services to businesses to ensure job candidates with disabilities have the skills necessary for the job.

Created in 2010, the Secondary Transition Resource Center assisted Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to improve secondary transition-focused education services for students with disabilities. Funded by the Indiana Department of Education, and in collaboration with the Blumburg Center at Indiana State University, the Center provided professional development opportunities and training and technical assistance for education professionals and LEAs.

2011 - Professional Development in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Indiana Resource Center for Autism provided technical assistance on evidence-based practices for measuring progress and outcomes for students on the autism spectrum. The project partnered with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders and was one of 12 states selected to host technical assistance projects that became model sites that promoted learning and achievement of students with ASD and family support.

2012 - Culturally Responsive Positive Behavior Supports

The Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) Project initially provided training and technical assistance to six school districts in Indiana to develop culturally responsive PBS. The project established a statewide teacher training and technical assistance network. This work, in collaboration with the Equity Project, Center on Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, raised awareness of racial and ethnic disparities student discipline. A school-based research component to monitor how the project impacts achievement, dropout rate, parental involvement, and placement of students with disabilities in general education classrooms was also developed.

Also in 2012, technical assistance was provided to promote long-term sustainability for communities to ensure that their residents of all ages and abilities are invested and thriving in their communities of choice. Three Indiana communities received planning grants to undertake data-driven, participatory planning to address issues of housing, access, and other changes to the built environment.

2013 - IN-TASS Project

In 2011, Indiana state law required Indiana schools to conduct annual evaluations of all teachers. To meet the needs of this new legislation, the Indiana Teacher Appraisal and Support System (IN-TASS) was established. The project provided flexible and collaborative processes to advise school districts as they work with stakeholders to design a teacher appraisal system that met and exceeded the requirements of the Indiana legislation.

2014 - Advocates for Livable Communities

A collaborative effort with the University of Indianapolis resulted in the development and facilitation of a five-day training on core components and core advocacy skills necessary to promote livable communities for older adults and people with disabilities.

Additionally in 2014, a five-year research project was implemented to study the effectiveness of a team approach that provides transition students who have an IEP with internship opportunities before they leave school and connect them with the state and local resources needed to be successful in the work of work. Key components of local Collaboratives include support of an embedded career coach, development of student personal profile, self-determination skill training, internships, benefits counseling, and family training.

2015 - Early Education Matching Grant Program

In 2015, Indiana initiated programs to publicly fund Pre-K services. The state's Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning contracted the IIDC to evaluate the quality and impact of participating grant programs. The child, family, and progress assessment data was analyzed to determine program impact. A continuation grant was awarded to the IIDC to evaluate the second year of implementation.

2016 - Center on Teacher Quality

The IIDC received funding to establish and operate the Indiana Center on Teacher Quality as part of a federally funded $5 million State Personnel Development grant to the Indiana Department of Education. The Indiana Center on Teacher quality seeks to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities by ensuring their access to a Pre K-12 continuum of instruction from high quality teachers.