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Elizabeth Biggs

Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education

Elizabeth E. Biggs, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University, a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, and a faculty member with the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities). Her research focuses on promoting the inclusion and flourishing of children and youth with autism, intellectual disabilities, and other developmental disabilities in school and community settings—particularly for children and youth who are nonspeaking or who have limited verbal speech. She is especially interested in the integration and implementation of aided augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), such as speech-generating devices.

Dr. Biggs conducts research that leads to the development of practical and effective ways to promote strong social, communication, and language/early literacy outcomes for children who use or would benefit from AAC. In recent years this work has included: developing school-based interventions for students learning to use aided AAC; seeking to understand ways to support social interaction and friendship among students with and without disabilities; examining the use of telepractice and family-centered practices to support children learning to use high-tech speech generating devices and their families; investigating family experiences and supports during the COVID-19 pandemic; and examining the social networks and supports for school staff working with students who use or would benefit from AAC.

Dr. Biggs has worked extensively with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities across different settings, including as a former special education teacher on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Her research is applied in nature, and she is particularly interested in understanding the complex factors that surround day-to-day practice through mixed and multiple research methods.

Dr. Biggs has received funding for her work from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Spencer Foundation. She was also a recipient of the Alice H. Hayden Emerging Leader Award from TASH, a leading international professional association focused on individuals with developmental disabilities who have extensive support needs. She works closely with undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level students in her research, and there is generous funding available for graduate students interesting in pursuing a master’s degree or doctoral degree in severe disabilities (e.g., students with intellectual disability, autism, multiple disabilities who have extensive support needs).