Welcome from Editor-in-Chief of RPSD

Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (RPSD) occupies a unique niche among research journals focusing on individuals with extensive support needs. It was created in the mid-1970s when few, if any, journals specifically focused on the education of people with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities. The journal and the newly founded association that spawned it – the American Association for the Education of the Severely/Profoundly Handicapped, now called TASH – were unique for their time. The first president of the association, Norris G. Haring, sought to find a voice and a vehicle to advocate for people who were not recognized by society as the important members that they are (Haring, 1976). In those efforts, the precursor to TASH sought to bring together advocacy, policy, and research as interconnected and mutually synergistic efforts. The association’s journal, now called RPSD, was the evidence-based research vehicle for which new findings and breakthroughs explicitly designed to improve the quality of life of people with extensive support needs could be disseminated (Harmon & Haring, 1976).

Given this backdrop, it is a deep honor to assume the helm of RPSD as the journal’s new editor. My own history with TASH and RPSD began in the early 1980s when I started learning about advocacy and research as interconnected activities. Those early lessons have shaped my professional and advocacy efforts ever since (e.g., Kennedy, 1995; Kennedy, 2021). Many years later, RPSD remains the primary vehicle for disseminating original, peer-reviewed research findings to the TASH audience and beyond. I envision this remaining the journal’s focus because it is its singular point of origin and unique strength.

I am deeply indebted to my predecessors who have served in the role of editor. Those individuals, in chronological sequence, include Eugene Edgar, Robert York, Doug Guess, Luanna H. Meyer, Robert H. Horner, Ann P. Kaiser, James W. Halle, Lori Goetz, Linda M. Bambara, Fredda Brown, Marty Agran, and Stacy K. Dymond. I have had the pleasure of knowing many of the previous editors and hope their collective experience and wisdom will prove propaedeutic to my new duties. I am particularly grateful to the outgoing editor, Stacy K. Dymond, who has competently stewarded the journal for the past 6 years (Dymond, 2015; Dymond, 2022). She has done an exceptional job. During her watch RPSD’s submissions have increased, as have the number of papers published in the journal and its citation indexes, all while maintaining a rigorous and constructive peer-review process. I would also like to thank Michael Brogioli the Executive Director of TASH for his support of the journal and to the people at SAGE Publishing who ably produce our quarterly journal.

As I assume the editorship, I have recruited some familiar and new names to senior editorial positions. The associate editors will be Elizabeth E. Biggs (Vanderbilt University), Charles Dukes (Florida Atlantic University), Robert C. Pennington (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), Jenny Root (Florida State University), Zachary Rossetti (Boston University), and Fred Spooner (University of North Carolina at Charlotte). Our statistical consultant will continue to be Meghan Burke (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and our managing editor, Shari Hopkins (Western Oregon University), will continue in her role. I would like to thank each of these individuals for the critical role they are assuming in support of RPSD.

I accepted the role of editor with several specific goals in mind. These goals are intended to strengthen the journal and continue its positive momentum going forward. My specific goals are:

  1. Increase the diversity represented in the journal. TASH has long championed diversity, equity, and inclusion for people with extensive support needs. As TASH’s journal, RPSD has, and will continue to have, a focus on improving the quality of life of these individuals. In support of this observation, a sustained focus on recruiting new talent from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives as allies can only strengthen the journal. Therefore, a major focus of my time as editor will be to recruit a diverse array of individuals who can contribute to the journal as editorial board members, authors, and guest reviewers. People with severe disabilities come from all walks of life that knows no boundaries or distinctions in our, and any other, society. Continuing to build a broad constituency of stakeholders in RPSD seems an important means of moving the journal forward.
  2. Enhance the focus on inter-generational change among constituents. In parallel with increasing the diversity of the journal, we need to continue to make concerted efforts to build generational change into the publication’s contributing authors, reviewers, and senior editorial leadership. Fortunately, this task is made easier by the wealth of talent we have in the field of severe disabilities that is only comparable to the period when our founders were drawn to the field in the late-1960s and early 1970s. This focus will include adding early and mid-career faculty to the ranks of the journal’s editorial team, recruiting doctoral students to be mentored in the peer-review process, and building a leadership pipeline to ensure the future of the journal.
  3. Broaden the disciplines contributing to RPSD. New ideas and new faces would be smartly complemented by a broadening of the disciplinary contributors to the journal. Historically, RPSD has had a strong emphasis on K-12 education. This is a source of strength for the journal and will continue to be a primary source for innovation. However, people with severe disabilities live lives that, like all of us, range across the lifespan and occur in a broad variety of contexts. To more robustly impact the quality of life of people with extensive support needs, it makes sense to recruit a broader set of specialty areas and contributors. During my time as editor, I will be recruiting academics from allied disciplines who share a common purpose in improving the lives of people with significant disabilities to enlarge the evidence-based conversation about how to effectively impact people’s lives.
  4. Increase the journal’s visibility and impact. Like my predecessors, I intend to maintain a strong focus on the journal’s health and status. Each of the previous goals, valuable in their own right, should also contribute to increased interest in the journal, higher rates of manuscript submissions, and the raising of the profile of RPSD. By increasing the range of topics, contributors, and disciplines submitting research to RPSD and maintaining the journal’s high standards of peer review, I anticipate a greater impact for the journal and an increased breadth of topics chronicled in its pages.

In conclusion, I and the new editorial team will focus on continuing to move the journal forward and ensuring timely and informative reviews. We will also keep a clear focus on the four goals I have set for the journal and continue to make RPSD the flagship journal of TASH. I look forward to working with an array of individuals over the next several years in continuing the momentum of the journal and bringing forward evidence-based practices that can improve the lives of people with extensive support needs.

Craig H. Kennedy
University of Connecticut


Dymond, S. K. (2015). Editorial welcome. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 40(3), 171-172. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796915601863

Dymond, S. K. (2022). Reflections from an outgoing editor. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 47(1), 3-5. https://doi.org/10.1177/15407969221081804

Haring, N. G. (1976). Welcome address to second annual AAESPH conference, Kansas City, Missouri, November 11-12, 1975. AAESPH Review, 1(3), 85-104. https://doi.org/10.1177/154079697600100304

Harmon, E., & Haring, N. G. (1976). Meet AAESPH—The new kid on the block. Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, 11(2), 101-105. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23875203

Kennedy, C. H. (1995). A lesson learned. Journal of Behavioral Education, 5(2), 119-121. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02110201

Kennedy, C. H. (2021). How does health impact challenging behavior? Research and Practice in Severe Disabilities, 46(4), 208-215. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796921996437

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