Sigan Hartley100 Women Distinguished Chair in Human Ecology, Director of SoHE Graduate Studies, Professor

My research seeks to promote health and well-being in individuals with developmental disabilities and their families across the life course. My research focuses on developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and fragile X syndrome. I am interested in understanding how biological, cognitive, and behavioral factors interact with the environmental context, including the family, support services, and broader community, to contribute to health and well-being in children and adults with developmental disabilities and their parents. My research employs multifaceted methodologies (e.g., daily diaries, medical and public record reviews, observational coding systems, physiological measures, biological markers), using a range of analytic approaches (e.g., multilevel longitudinal modeling and survival analyses).

Recent press

New NIH initiative to examine Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndromeDisability Insider, November 3, 2020
‘A lot of stress’: School closure strains families with children who have disabilitiesWisconsin State Journal, April 12, 2020
For caregivers of children with autism, COVID-19 conditions can present extra challengesWisconsin Public Radio, April 4, 2020
In Wisconsin, 3 in 5 people with Down syndrome diagnosed with dementia by age 55UW News, October 28, 2019

Classes Taught

  • Course number: HDFS 363: Course title: Development: Adolescence through Old Age
  • Course number: HDFS 471: Course title: Parent-Child Relations
  • Course number: HDFS 592: Course title: Research Experience in HDFS
  • Course number: HDFS 501: Course title: Neurodevelopmental Conditions and the Family
  • Course number: HDFS 763: Course title: Families of Children with Disabilities
  • Course number: HDFS 842: Course title: Parent-Child Relations across the Life course
  • Course number: HDFS 865: Course title: Family Theory I


  • Human Development & Family Studies

Degree Program

  • BS Human Development & Family Studies
  • PhD Human Ecology: Human Development and Family Studies


  • Waisman Center Investigator
  • 100 Women Chair in Human Ecology


Office: 4101 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 608-265-5424