The Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children and Youth was established in 1981 as a research, development and service organization designed to address a broad array of issues in special education.  It is a problem-centered organization that allows university faculty the opportunity to work together on serious issues and problems affecting the lives of individuals with disabilities. 

The Institute's work and purpose was originally conceived to function in five interlocking task areas: (1) policy studies; (2) consumer involvement and evaluation; (3) leadership development; (4) interdisciplinary studies; and (5) dissemination of information and technical assistance.  Work at the international level is a vital element of the Institute’s core of activity.  The Institute has always had as a critical element of its mission the development of opportunities for faculty in special education to work collaboratively and to serve as a stimulus for ideas that would complement their research, teaching and service mission as well as to serve in the furtherance of ideas that had the potential to generate support from foundations, as well as state and federal sources. This Institute has been a national leader in conducting a variety of research initiatives that provided information to policymakers and has broadly disseminated its findings to a variety of audiences.  The Institute sponsors national conferences, workshops, and other training activities involving school personnel.  The Institute has collaborated on a symposium series with Cambridge University, Cambridge UK, that focused on school reform and classification of individuals with disabilities and collaborated with the Organization for Economic cooperation and Development (Paris) on a study of services for young adults with disabilities in the Danish Kurator system.

Due in part to its location in the greater metropolitan area of Washington, DC, the Institute has established relationships with numerous professional and membership organizations, as well as federal and state agencies concerned with persons with disabilities.  Under various grants and contracts, Institute staff have produced a number of high-quality and extensively disseminated products, including books, monographs, technical reports and issue briefs, many of which have been distributed internationally.  Over 43 funded projects have been conducted within the Institute since its creation.  Highlights from several of the most significant projects of national significance are summarized in this website link.