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SPER Doctoral Studies



When you study in the Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program you broaden your ability to impact education and services for people with disabilities. The Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program offers a multidisciplinary doctoral degree that brings together faculty and students across disciplinary and departmental lines to explore interrelated aspects of disabilities. You also set your career in fast forward. You learn to:

  • Prepare new teachers and clinicians to effectively implement research-based practices
  • Develop and evaluate new programs
  • Conduct meaningful research on important topics.

In our program you learn to prepare teachers and clinicians to have a wide impact on students from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Upon graduation you will have the skills necessary to become a university professor and leader in disability-related fields.



Coursework includes a set of core courses that establish foundation and framework for a rigorous and scholarly understanding of issues related to disability disciplines. In addition, each specialization provides unique coursework focused on issues that are more specific to that specialization.

Preliminary Exams

Early in his/her program - typically after one year of full-time study - students must pass a preliminary exam. This exam focuses on research methods and critical content related to the specialization. Details of the structure and content of the exam varies across specializations.

Products and Demonstrations of Competence

A set of seven required products and demonstrations of competence provide a context for collaboration and mentoring around the critical skill-sets necessary for successful university professors.  The products and demonstrations of competence include research, college teaching, supervision, conference presentation, publication, review of literature, and grant writing.  These activities are focused on the particular content and issues that are important within the student's specialization.  This set of activities constitutes the program's comphrehensive exam; they must be completed before the student proposes their dissertation.


The dissertation is the culminating project of the doctoral program. It involves original research that advances the field by contributing new knowledge that is relevant to an important question. The dissertation is a creative and scholarly endeavor that builds upon the student's coursework, products and demonstrations of competence, and extensive mentoring from the faculty.

Financial Aid

Excellent financial assistance is available to qualified students in the Disability Disciplines program. Support includes a monthly living stipend, tuition waiver, participation in professional conferences, and computer technology.


Applied Behavior Analysis

The Applied Behavior Analysis doctoral specialization at Utah State University prepares graduates to be highly effective university faculty and behavior analytic practitioners who significantly improve individuals' lives through research, intervention, and teaching.


The doctoral program in Audiology is a specialization within the Disability Disciplines PhD Program in the Emma Eccles Jones School of Education and Human Services. The Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program offers a multidisciplinary doctoral degree that brings together faculty and students across disciplinary and departmental lines to explore interrelated aspects of disabilities.

Disability Studies

The Disability Studies doctoral specialization at Utah State University prepares graduates to be highly effective university faculty in disability studies programs. Graduates contribute to a deeper understanding of the complexities of disabilities in the context of changing demographics and society.


The Pathokinesiology specialization within the Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program focuses on the scientific study of human movement (kinesiology) as it relates to any abnormal condition (patho) affecting movement or postural dysfunction.

Rehabilitation Counseling

The Rehabilitation Counseling specialization prepares graduates to be highly effective university faculty and agency administrators in rehabilitation counseling. Graduates significantly improve the lives of persons with disabilities through research, teaching, and program administration.

Special Education

The Special Education specialization of the Disability Disciplines Ph.D. prepares graduates to be effective university faculty in special education who significantly improve children's lives through research, scholarship, and teaching.

Speech-Language Pathology

The doctoral program in Speech-Language Pathology is a specialization within the Disability Disciplines PhD Program in the Emma Eccles Jones School of Education and Human Services. The Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program offers a multidisciplinary doctoral degree that brings together faculty and students across disciplinary and departmental lines to explore interrelated aspects of disabilities.

Faculty Publications with Students

(Bold = graduate student co-authors)


Campbell, K., Charlton, C., Maynes, J., & West, R.P. (2014). State of the States 2013: Utah. Journal of Education Finance, 39(3), 283-286.

Lignugaris/Kraft, B., & Harris, S.  (2014). Teacher preparation: Principles of effective pedagogy. In P. Sindelar,  E. D. McRay, M. T. Brownell & B. LignugarisKraft  (Eds.). Handbook of research on special education teacher preparation. New York: Routledge, Taylor, & Francis.

Louder, T., Bressel, E., Baldwin, M., Dolny, D., Gordin, R., & Miller, M. (2014). Effect of Aquatic Immersion on Static Balance. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 8, 53-65.

Riesen, T., Schultz, J. Morgan, R., & Kupferman, S. (2014). School-to-work barriers as identified by special educators, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and community rehabilitation professionals. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 80, 33-44.

Snyder, K., Slocum, T.A., & Kunnavatana, S.S. (2014). Promoting Behavioral Variability in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders:  A Literature Review.  Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.  DOI: 10.1177/1088357614525661

Squires, K. E., Lugo-Neris, M. J., Peña, E. D., Bedore, L. M., Bohman, T. M., & Gillam, R. B., (2014).  Story retelling by bilingual children with language impairments and typically-developing controls.  International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 49(1), 60-74. DOI:10.1111/1460-6984.12044.


Bloom, S. E., Lambert, J. M., Dayton, E., & Samaha, A. L. (2013) Teacher-conducted trial-based functional analysis as the basis for intervention. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 208-218.

Brodhead, M.T., & Higbee, T. S. (2013). Teaching and maintaining ethical behavior in a clinical organization. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5, 86-92.

Clay, C. J., Samaha, A. L., Bloom, S. E., Bogoev, B. K., & Boyle, M. A. (2013). Assessing preference for social interactions. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 362-371

Detrich, R., Slocum, T. A., & Spencer, T. D.  (2013). Evidence-Based Education and Best Available Evidence: Decision-Making Under Conditions of Uncertainty. In B. G. Cook, M. Tankersley, & T. J. Landrum (Eds.), Evidence-Based Practices (Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities, Volume 26), (pp. 21-44). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Kunnavatana, S. S., Bloom, S. E., Samaha, A. L., Lignugaris/Kraft, B., Dayton, E., & Harris, S. (2013). Using a modified pyramidal training model to teach special education teachers to conduct trial-based functional analyses. Teacher Education and Special Education, 36, 267-285. DOI 10.1177/0888406413500152.

Lambert, J. M., Bloom, S. E., Kunnavatana, S. S., Collins, S. D., & Clay, C. J. (2013). Training residential staff to conduct trial-based functional analyses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 296-300.

Morgan, R. L., Callow-Heusser, C. A., Horrocks, E., Hoffman, A. K., & Kupferman, S. (2013). Identifying transition teacher competencies through literature review and surveys of national experts and practitioners. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals. Published online 1 April 2013 DOI: 10.1177/2165143413481379

Petersen, D. L. & Gillam, R. B. (2013).  Predicting reading ability for bilingual Latino children using dynamic assessment.  Journal of Learning Disabilities. Early on-line, DOI:10.1177/0022219413486930.

Petersen, D. L., & Gillam, R. B. (2013).  Accurately predicting future reading difficulty for bilingual Latino children at risk for language impairment. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 28(3), 113-128. DOI: 10.1111/ldrp.12014

Sellers, T. P., Bloom, S. E., Samaha, A. L., Dayton, E., Lambert, J. M., & Keyl-Austin, A. A.,  (2013). Some components of choice making. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46, 455-464.

Sheen, J., Morgan, R. L., & Kupferman, S. (2013). The Utah postsecondary inclusion project strategic plan. The Essential Educator, May, 2013.

Southwick, J., Durán, L. K., & Schultz, J. (2013). A Pragmatic Approach to Cultural Competency in Vocational Rehabilitation: The Case of Hmong Americans. A Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 44(3), 23-31

Squires, K. & Gillam, S., Reutzel, D. R. (2013). Characteristics of children who struggle with reading: Teachers and Speech-Language Pathologists collaborate to support young learners. The Early Childhood Education Journal, 41, 401-411.

Wolfe, K., & Durán, L. K. (2013). Culturally and linguistically diverse parents' perceptions of the IEP process: A review of current research.  Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 4-18.


Gillam, S., Fargo, J., Petersen, D., & Clark, M. (2012). Assessment of structure dependent narrative features in modeled contexts: African American and European American children. English Linguistics Research, 1, 1-17.

Johnson, B., Salzberg, C. L., Stevenson, D. A. (2012). Case Series: Effects of a plyometric training program for three children with neurofibromatosis type 1. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 24(2), 199-208.

Kelsey, D. J., & Smart, J. F. (2012). Social Justice, Disability, and Rehabilitation Education. NCRE, 26(2 & 3), 231-240.

Keyl-Austin, A., & Higbee, T. S. (2012). Reinforcer variation: A narrative review. Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 6, 211-227.

Keyl-Austin, A. A., Samaha, A. L., Bloom, S. E., & Boyle, M. A. (2012). Effects of preference and reinforcer variation on within-session patterns of responding. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(3), 637-641.

Kupferman, S., Riesen, T., & Morgan, R. L. (2012). The transition specialist masters program at Utah State University: Somewhere on the long and winding road. The Utah Special Educator, 35(1)48-51.

Lambert, J. M., Bloom, S. E., & Irvin, J. (2012). Trial-based functional analysis and functional communication training in an early childhood setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(3), 579-584.

Morgan, R. L., Kupferman, S., & Sheen, J. (2012). Frequently asked questions about postsecondary education options for young adults with significant disabilities. The Essential Educator,

O'Keeffe, B. V., & Slocum, T. A. Burlingame, C., Snyder, K., & Buncock, K.  (2012).  Comparing results of systematic reviews:  Parallel reviews of research on repeated reading.  Education and Treatment of Children, 35, 333 ‚¬€œ 366.  DOI: 10.1353/etc.2012.0006.

Pollard, J. S., Betz, A. M., & Higbee, T. S. (2012). Script-fading to promote unscripted bids for joint attention in children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 387-393.

Sabey, C., & Ross, S. W. (2012). Getting More From Social Skills. Utah Special Educator, 35(1), 32-35.

Slocum, T. A., Detrich, R., & Spencer, T. D. (2012).  Evaluating the validity of systematic reviews to identify empirically supported treatments.  Education and Treatment of Children, 35, 201 - 233.  DOI: 10.1353/etc.2012.0015

Slocum, T. A., Spencer, T. D., & Detrich, R. (2012).  Best available evidence:  Three complementary approaches.  Education and Treatment of Children, 35,153 - 18 .  DOI: 10.1353/etc.2012.0013

Snyder, K., Higbee, T. S., & Dayton, L. (2012). Preliminary investigation of a video-based stimulus preference assessment. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 13-18.

Spencer, T. D., Detrich, R., & Slocum, T. A.  (2012).  Evidence-based practice:  A framework for making effective decisions.  Education and Treatment of Children, 35, 127 - 151. DOI: 10.1353/etc.2012.0013

Spencer, T. D., & Higbee, T. S. (2012). Using transfer of stimulus control technology to promote generalization and spontaneity of language. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 27, 225-236.

Vasquez, E., & Slocum, T. A. (2012).  The evaluation of synchronous online tutoring for students at-risk of reading failure.  Exceptional Children, 78,  221-235.


Gillam, S., & Fargo, J., Foley, B., & Olszewski, A. (2011). A nonverbal phoneme deletion task administered in a dynamic assessment format. Journal of Communication Disorders, 44, 236-245.

Hoffman, L. M., Loeb, D. F., Brandel, J., & Gillam, R. B. (2011). Concurrent and Construct Validity of Oral Language Measures with School Age Children with Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 54, 1597-1608.

Horrocks, E. L. & Morgan, R. L. (2011). Effects of in-service teacher training on correct implementation of assessment and instructional procedures for teachers of students with profound multiple disabilities. Teacher Education and Special Education, 34, 283 - 319.

Morgan, R. L., & Horrocks, E. L. (2011). Correspondence between video-based preference assessment and subsequent community job performance. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 46, 52 - 61.

Morgan, R. L., & Openshaw, K. P. (2011). Targeted transition assessment leading to job placement for young adults with disabilities in rural areas. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30(2), 28 - 31.