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Susan Fowler

Susan Fowler is active in research related to families of young children with developmental delays and issues involving access to early intervention and early care and education services. She received her doctorate in child development from the University of Kansas in 1979 and has served on the faculty at the University of Illinois since 1990 as department head, associate dean and dean of the college. She has also served on the national level as president of the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) (1992), president of CEC (2009) and of the Higher Education Consortium of Special Education (HECSE) (1998-99). Dr. Fowler has an extensive history of federal and state funding for her research and scholarship; federal funding has come from NIMH, OSEP in the USDE, HHS, and at the state level from the Board of Education and Human Services. She serves on many editorial boards as a reviewer or associate editor. She currently directs three state funded projects that provide information to families and teachers working with children birth to five as well as policy makers and co-directs a doctoral leadership grant for students pursuing doctorates in the area of early childhood special education and EI.

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Developmental and Child Psychology, University of Kansas, 1979
  • M.A., Experimental Psychology, Notre Dame University, 1976
  • B.A., Human Development and Family Life, University of Kansas, 1974

Key Professional Appointments

  • Professor, Special Education, University of Illinois, 1993-present
  • Dean, College of Education, University of Illinois, 2000-2006
  • Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Education, University of Illinois, 1996-2000
  • Department Head, Special Education, University of Illinois, 1990-1996
  • Associate Professor, Special Education, University of Illinois, 1990-1993

Activities & Honors

  • College of Education Service Award, College of Education , 2014

Research Statement

My research focuses on services for families and very young children (birth to age 8) who have developmental disabilities or delays or are at risk due to multiple factors including poverty. I often examine the coordination of services for families and the transition from one program to another. Including children with disabilities in community programs, supporting teachers in differentiating their instruction, and assessing state and national policy issues around the provision of services for very young children represent my most prominent themes. I involve my graduate students in my research and scholarship. Recently we have looked at: identifying systemic policy and practice changes at state and local levels necessary to increase access to services for families living in poverty; evaluating innovative strategies at the local level to promote effective practices; studying the inclusion of children with developmental delays in community based programs; and promoting the translation of research findings to practice as evidence based strategies. I also follow my doctoral students' lead which has introduced me to other topics such as how culture, language and religion influence the way in which families live with their children and seek services or other forms of support.


  • Co-Principal Investigator, DELL-D Developing Early Language and Literacy in Danville, U.S. Department of Education, 2007-2011
  • Principal Investigator, Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map Project, Illinois State Board of Education, 2006-2015
  • Principal Investigator, Illinois Early Learning Web Site, Illinois State Board of Education, 2001-2006

Select Publications

  • Fowler, S., Yates, T., Ostrosky, M. (2011). Professional development  for early childhood intervention:  Current status and future directions. Early childhood intervention: Programs and policies for special needs children. ABC-CLIO Publishers: Santa Barbara, CA..
  • Fowler, S., YATES , T., Ostrosky, M. (2011). Professional Development for early childhood intervention . Early childhood intervention: Programs and policies for special needs children. . ABC-CLIO Publishers, : Santa Barbara, CA..
  • Fowler, S. (2010). Early transition of children with special needs . International Encyclopedia of Education. Elsevier: Oxford.
  • Jagatheesen, B., Miller, P., Fowler, S. (2010). Autism from a religious perspective:  A study of parental beliefs in South Asian Muslim immigrant families. Focus on Autism and Other  Developmental Disabilities, 25, 98-109.
  • Fowler, S., Bloom, P., Talan, T., Beneke, S., Kelton, R. (2008). Who’s caring for the kids? The Status of early childhood workforce in Illinois—2008. National Louis University: Chicago.
  • Fowler, S., Yates, T., Lewman, B. (2007). Using a weekly story to plan creative activities and promote early literacy in preschool. Gifted Children Today, 30, 27-33.
  • Fowler, S., Ostrosky, M., Yates, T. (2006). Teaching and learning in the early years. Handbook of special education. Sage: UK.
  • Corso, R., Fowler, S., Santos, R. (2005). Building healthy relationships with families . Sopris West Educational Services: Longmont, CO.
  • Fowler, S., Santos, R., Corso, R. (2005). Appropriate screening, assessment, and family information gathering. Sopris West Educational Services: Longmont, CO.
  • Zhang, C., Fowler, S., Bennett, T. (2004). The development of the Individualized Family Service Plans in Early Head Start: The need for collaboration between Early Head Start and Early Intervention. Early Childhood Education Journal, 32, 179-186.
  • Lewman, B., Fowler, S. (2002). Spark: A preschool curriculum for promoting learning through arts and literacy. Redbird Press: St. Paul, MN.
  • Fowler, S., Donegan, M., Luecke, B., Hadden, D., Phillips, B. (2000). Evaluating community collaboration in writing interagency agreements on the age 3 transition. Exceptional Children, 67(1), 35-50.
  • McNeill, J., Fowler, S. (1999). Let's talk: Encouraging mother-child communication during story reading. Journal of Early Intervention, 22, 51-69.

In The News

Alumna starts College of Adaptive Arts to make a difference in the lives of diverse learners

Jul. 17, 2014

Many aspiring teachers receive their Education degrees from Illinois with the intention of one day leading a classroom and educating students to the best of their abilities. Read more...

President 'following the lead of states' on universal preschool funding, says College's early childhood experts

Jul. 1, 2014

Early childhood experts Susan Fowler and Dawn Thomas spoke with the University of Illinois News Bureau about President Barack Obama’s federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015, which calls for $75 billion in the coming decade to fund universal preschool. Read more...