Faculty Directory

Lisa A. Daunhauer

Lisa A. Daunhauer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

447 Behavioral Sciences Building
1570 Campus Delivery
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1570

Phone: 970-491-6917
Fax: 970-491-7975
E-mail: lisa.daunhauer@colostate.edu


Developmental Disabilities Research Laboratory

Research Interests

My research program uses an interdisciplinary approach to describe cognitive and behavioral development in children with Down syndrome, as well as other neurogenetic and developmental disorders. Development in both typically developing children and children with chromosomal disorders, such as Down syndrome, is a complex and dynamic process (Karmiloff-Smith, 1997; Thelen & Smith 1994). Therefore, I am particularly interested in examining developmental trajectories over time in this population using both laboratory-based measures and ecologically valid measures from the everyday context to consider the whole child in the developmental process.

Examining the cognitive behavioral phenotype in children with Down syndrome

My current research program is directed at characterizing the executive function profile associated with the Down syndrome cognitive phenotype through both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. One of my primary concerns in investigating this profile in Down syndrome is to understand how performance in the laboratory relates to performance in real life contexts. Therefore, as a foundation for both of my current federally-funded projects I developed an in-depth laboratory battery to examine executive functioning that is both developmentally sensitive to the target population and integrates the most current conceptual distinctions regarding the measurement of executive function in developmentally young children. Additionally I am using an ecologically valid and psychometrically sound standardized report of executive functioning in everyday life in both projects. These executive function assessments are being analyzed along with data from standardized measures of cognition and language.

Overall, both of these projects will allow testing of hypotheses regarding a specific executive ‘fingerprint’ in Down syndrome. Finally, I have co-authored several chapters on Down syndrome and wrote several first author pieces, including an article employing effect size analyses to question commonly held assumptions about adaptive behavior in individuals with Down syndrome.

Identifying school-aged children with acquired brain injuries

Related to my research trajectory on executive functioning in Down syndrome, I was a methodologist on a research project funded by the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund. This project investigated the psychometric properties of a screening tool to identify school-aged children with brain injuries. This screening tool features a behavior domain focused on executive functioning. Brain injuries are reported to be under-identified in school-aged children and therefore their educational needs may be under-served (Glang, Tyler, Pearson, Todis, & Morvant, 2004). In this role I planned the methods as well as fidelity procedures and analyses.

Understanding the role of environmental deprivation in cognitive development

My research experience began as a graduate student investigating specific behaviors observed in children who had been adopted internationally from institutions (orphanages). As a doctoral student I had the unique opportunity to study cognitive developmental status, play skills, and caregiving arising from a “natural experiment”. The collapse of communism in Eastern-Bloc countries and the resulting humanitarian response to the children institutionalized in orphanages in those countries allowed researchers to use newer, empirical methodologies to study deprivation compared to those employed in the classic deprivation studies (e.g. Bowlby, 1965; Spitz &Wolf, 1946).


I believe that interdisciplinary research teams will make the strongest contributions to science, particularly to the study of intervention outcomes in developmental science for children with Down syndrome. My background in rehabilitation science and clinical experience has helped me design a powerful research program to explore the clinical and practical outcomes related to the cognitive behavioral phenotype in Down syndrome. The strengths I bring to my research projects are: a proven track record in obtaining federal funding, developing sound research methods specific to a project, and recruiting relevant team members for particular projects.


B.S., 1989, Journalism, University of Florida
M.S., 1996, Occupational Therapy, Boston University
Sc.D., 2004, Rehabilitation Sciences-Therapeutic Studies, Boston University

Honors and Awards

2003 Ann Henderson Doctoral Student Scholarship Award, Boston University
2002 David Zeaman Travel Scholarship, Gatlinburg Conference on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
1999-2003 Maternal and Child Health Bureau Traineeship, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Boston University
1997-1999 Clinical Associate of Occupational Therapy, Boston University

Current Research Projects

Executive Function and Participation in Daily Life in Children with Down Syndrome, PI, Department of Education, National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education, Field-Initiated Projects Research Grant, 2010-2013, Principal Investigator

Executive Function and Academic Skills in Down Syndrome, PI, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Educational Science, Special Education Research Grants, Cognition and Student Learning in Special Education, 2011-2015, Principal Investigator

TBI Screening Tool Inventory: Expanding, Psychometric Properties to Support School Team Use, Colorado TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) Trust Fund, 2009-2011, Methodologist for PI: Dr. Pat Sample

Professional Experience

2009-present, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Colorado State University

2004 – 2011, Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy Department, Colorado State University

Selected Publications

Daunhauer, L. A., & Fidler, D. J. (in press). Regulation in individuals with Down syndrome. In Karen Barrett (ed.) Handbook of Self-Regulatory Processes in Development: New Directions and International Perspectives.

Daunhauer, L. A. (2011). The early development of adaptive behavior and functional abilities in young children with Down syndrome: Current knowledge and future directions. International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities, 40,109-137

Lee, N. R., Fidler, D. J., Blakely-Smith, A., Daunhauer, L., Robinson, C., & Hepburn, S. (2011). Parent-report of executive functioning in a population-based sample of young children with Down syndrome, American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 116, 290-304.

Daunhauer, L. A., & Fidler, D. J. (2011). The Down syndrome behavioral phenotype: Implications for practice and research in occupational therapy. Occupational Therapy in Healthcare, 25, 7-25.

Daunhauer, L. A., Coster, W. J., Tickle-Degnen, L., & Cermak, S.A. (2010). Play and cognition among young children reared in an institution. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 30, 83-97.

Daunhauer, L. A. & Bundy-Fazioli, K. (2008). The Panel Study of Income Dynamics: Opportunities for the study of occupation. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 28, 141-143.

Detmer, J. L., Daunhauer, L. A., Dettmar-Hanna, D., & Sample, P. L. (2007). Putting brain injury on the radar: Determining validity and reliability of the Screening Tool for Identification of acquired brain injury in students. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 22, 339-349.

Daunhauer, L. A., Coster, W. J., Tickle-Degnen, L., & Cermak, S.A. (2007). The effects of caregiver-child interactions on play behaviors of young children institutionalized in Eastern Europe. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 429-440.

Thematic Research Areas

  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities, neurogenetic disorders
  • Executive functioning
  • Academic achievement
  • Function in everyday life