Dr. Diane Ryndak (SES) Receives AERA Distinguished Researcher Award for Special & Inclusive Education Research

Posted on February 11, 2021

Diane Ryndak Headshot
Dr. Diane Ryndak

Congratulations to Dr. Diane Ryndak, professor in the SOE Specialized Education Services (SES) Department, for being awarded the Distinguished Researcher Award from the Special and Inclusive Education Research SIG of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

AERA is a national research society that strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Individuals are nominated for the AERA Special and Inclusive Education Research SIG’s Distinguished Researcher Award based on a body of research that has made significant and sustained contributions to research, policy, and/or practice in the field of special and inclusive education over a period of time.

Dr. Ryndak has been a pioneer, an advocate, and a trailblazer fighting for the equal rights of individuals with disabilities since the 1980s. Her research focuses on teacher and researcher preparation at the master’s and doctoral levels, with an emphasis on collaborative teaming to meet the complex needs of students with significant intellectual and other disabilities through the use of evidence-based practices that result in access to general education curriculum, contexts, instruction, and classmates. Research supports that these students achieve better outcomes when they are in general education contexts with grade-level peers who do not have disabilities. They have models around them with whom they want to interact and imitate.

“Dr. Ryndak’s expertise and leadership in the field of special and inclusive education has been groundbreaking and laid the stage for the current direction of the field of teaching students with extensive and pervasive support needs and for the greater good,” says Dr. Debbie Taub, a colleague of Dr. Ryndak in SES. Dr. Taub also has her own consulting company, OTL Education Solutions, specializing in transforming opportunities to learn for students with disabilities.

In 2017, Dr. Ryndak received funding from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the Project LEAPS: Leadership in Extensive and Pervasive Support Needs. The goal of LEAPS is to prepare researchers and leaders with expertise in inclusive education and school reform, making sure that students with severe disabilities are receiving effective instruction in general education settings. LEAPS works with both special education and general education teams to look at instruction and the use of research-based practices in those settings.

In addition to LEAPS, Dr. Ryndak is on a national project with the TIES Center, which is funded to develop a technical assistance process that works with state departments of education, school districts in those states, schools in those districts, and education teams who are serving students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in those schools.

“At the helm of special education scholarship and advocacy for over four decades, few in our field match Dr. Ryndak’s heart, intellect, passion, and contributions,” Kristin Burnette, one of Dr. Ryndak’s doctoral scholars, wrote in her nomination letter. “Her lifelong career epitomizes the excellence in scholarship and dedication to special education that the Distinguished Researcher award honors, as well as an overall commitment to the field of special education, her students, and individuals with disabilities.”

Learn more about Dr. Ryndak’s work in this article from 2019.