Faculty & Staff


Elizabeth Perkins, PhD, RNLD, FAAIDD, FGSA

Elizabeth Perkins, PhD, RNLD(ret.), FAAIDD, FGSA 

Research Associate Professor, Retired Meritoriously

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Dr. Elizabeth Perkins, Research Associate Professor, Retired Meritoriously from the Department of Child and Family Studies.  She previously served as Co-PI and the Associate Director for the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities (FCIC), USF’s University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She has a PhD in Aging Studies and a BA (summa cum laude) in Psychology, both from USF. Dr. Perkins is a Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities (RNLD) trained in the United Kingdom - learning disabilities is the UK terminology for intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD). Her clinical experiences there were predominantly in the field of intellectual disabilities, geriatric, and long-term care. Dr. Perkins' current work includes training activities, research, resource development, and information dissemination focused on improving healthcare for adults and older adults with IDD and their caregivers. She is a faculty member in the Master’s Program in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Concentration in Developmental Disabilities, and teaches the online graduate course Issues and Trends in Developmental Disabilities.  Dr. Perkins leads Florida’s DD Waitlist Campaign, an FCIC advocacy initiative to highlight Florida’s extensive waitlist for Home and Community Based Services for Floridians with Developmental Disabilities.

Dr. Perkins’ scholarly work has been published in a variety of notable journals including the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Dr. Perkins’ research introduced the term “Compound Caregivers” – to identify the unique needs of caregivers of adult children with IDD who are also caregivers to other family members. She  co-authored the 5th (2010), 6th (2014), and 7th (2021) editions of  "Physical Changes and Aging: A Guide for the Helping Professions", a highly regarded gerontology textbook. Both the 5th and 6th editions were translated and published in Chinese. Dr. Perkins is also the author of numerous book chapters, policy briefs, and health advocacy resources and tools including My Health Passport, My Health Report, and the Education for Lifelong Health Factsheet series. She has also served as guest editor for the Special Issue on Aging and End of Life (2012) for the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Currently, Dr. Perkins is a consulting editor for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (a journal of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)), and the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities (a journal of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities). She is also an editorial board member for the UK’s Royal College of Nursing’s journal Learning Disability Practice, and AAIDD’s Inclusion.

Dr. Perkins has held several prominent national leadership roles. She is a Past President of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and served for 8 years (2012-2020) on the national board of directors. AAIDD, founded in 1876, is the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization of professionals devoted to research, education and practice in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her former service has included being President of AAIDD’s Gerontology Division, and former co-convener of the Formal Interest Group on Developmental Disabilities for the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Dr. Perkins is a Fellow of both AAIDD and GSA. At the state level, Dr. Perkins is a member-at-large of the board of directors of Disability Rights Florida. She represents FCIC on the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC). She is also a nominated member of the Florida Department of Health’s Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Workgroup. She has received many accolades – most recently being a National Honoree by the National Historic Recognition Project for her significant contributions to IDD field in the US during 2000-2020. In 2021, EP Magazine, to celebrate its 50 year anniversary honored Dr. Perkins as one of 50 Hero Advocates in the IDD field.  Upon receiving the Hero Advocate recognition - Dr. Perkins commented,  “Advocacy is the ultimate expression of my education and passion for social justice and health equity. If anything I have said, done, written, or taught has improved the quality of life for people with IDD and their caregivers, or helped the professionals that support them to do their job better, then that makes me happy. As a professional with a disability in the disability field - it is simply my duty to amplify the needs and the voices of all people with disabilities while demanding the respect we all deserve.

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