The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Mission

Will and Randy

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Mission

Pictured: Will McMillan checks out a DNA model with Randy Blakely, Ph.D.



What We Do

The mission of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development is to facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families. We are dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities by embracing core values that include:

  • the pursuit of scientific knowledge with creativity and purpose
  • the dissemination of information to scientists, practitioners, families, and community leaders
  • the facilitation of discovery by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center scientists
  • the translation of knowledge into practice

The Center was founded in 1965 at Peabody College as the first nationally designated National Institutes of Health Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. Today, it is part of a national network of 14 centers supported in part since its inception by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In 2005, the Center was designated a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Education, Research, and Service by the U.S. Administration on Developmental Disabilities, a network of 67 centers in all U.S. states and territories.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has evolved into an interdisciplinary research, training, diagnosis, and treatment institute, embracing faculty and resources available through Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the College of Arts and Science, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, School of Engineering, Divinity School, and Blair School of Music. The Center brings together scientists and practitioners in behavior, education, genetics, and neuroscience to work together in unique ways to solve the mysteries of development and learning.


What is a developmental disability?

A developmental disability is a condition that is significant and ongoing, begins before age 22, and substantially limits functioning in daily activities of living.

Examples of developmental disabilities include autism, brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, intellectual disabilities, Prader-Willi syndrome, spina bifida, and Williams syndrome.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center serves persons with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as persons with all types of disabilities, including those whose disabilities occur after age 22.