Friday photos 4

Steve Forness!

Steven R. Forness has been engaged in wonderfully valuable special education endeavors since the 1960s when he was at UCLA working with a couple of giants in our history, Frank Hewett and Barbara Keogh. Professor Hewett, for example, invited Steve to contribute to an introductory textbook about special education in 1974 and they published revised editions in 1977 and 1984. As he tells another story, he just happened to be in Professor Hewett's office when UCLA was looking for someone to administer an on-campus school and, voila, Steve became a principal.

Steve was a member of the faculty at UCLA from 1966 until his retirement in the 2003. He is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. For most of his association with UCLA, he was affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry (I think it changed names a few times, as is the wont of departments), and he had titles like the just-mentioned principal of the famous Neuropsychiatric Hospital School as well as Director of the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Training Program (among other positions).

During his career, Steve testified before the US Congress about the definition of emotional and behavioral disorders and had an appointment as a Fullbright Scholar in Portugal. He was also appointed to the Scientific Advisory Panel for the National Study on Transition of Head Start Children. He contributed to the 1990s revision of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

In recognition of his many contributions, the Council for Exceptional Children awarded Steve the Wallace Wallin Award. He also received many other awards, including (but not limited to) the Sidney Berman award on Learning Disorders from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Distinguished Educator Alumni Award from University of Northern Colorado.

One of Steve’s greatest strengths has been his knowledge about and ability to cross over different disciplines. Steve has not only adovcated for multidisplinary collaboration, but he has walked the proverbial walk.

As one might guess, Steve also has written extensively in the academic realm. In addition to the book with Professor Hewett, Steve published multiple books with his most frequent collaborator, the late Kenneth Kavale, including titles such as The Science of Learning Disabilities (Kavale & Forness, 1985), The Nature of Learning Disabilities (Kavale & Forness, 1995), and the Efficacy of Special Education (Kavale & Forness, 1999).

Professors Kavale and Forness published dozens—probably scores!—of papers together, many of them predicated on meta-analyses of research literatures. They addressed social skills training (e.g., Kavale & Forness, 1996), instruction based on learning styles (Kavale & Forness, 1987), and hyperactivity and food additives (Kavale & Forness, 1983).

Steve isn't yet finished with academic contributions. He was a co-author on a paper about preventing behavior problems in young children (Feil et al., 2020) and has another study coming out soon in Exceptional Children.

As with many of the elders in emotional and behavioral disorder, Bob Zabel, Marilyn Kaff, and Jim Teagarden conducted a wonderful interview with Steve. One can find it in a printed version (Zabel et al., 2013) as well as in a video version (thanks to the WayBackMachine). Lots of good stories, and Steve knows how to tell them.

Some particulars: After a year of attending the US Naval Academy, Steve attended the University of Northern Colorado, receiving bachelors and masters degrees. He received an EdD from UCLA in 1968. He still lives in southern California, but one can see him regularly at professional meetings.


Feil, E. G., Walker, H. M., Frey, A. J., Seeley, J., Small, J. W., Golly, A., Lee, J., & Forness, S. R. (2021). Efficacy Validation of the Revised First Step Program: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Exceptional Children, 87(2), 183-198.

Hewett, F. M. with S. R. Forness. (1984). Education of exceptional learners (3rd ed.). Allyn and Bacon.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (2085). The science of learning disabilities. Routledge.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1983). Hyperactivity and diet treatment: A meta-analysis of the Feingold hypothesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 16(6), 324-330.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1987). Substance over style: Assessing the efficacy of modality testing and teaching. Exceptional Children, 54(3), 228-239.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (2095). The nature of learning disabilities. Routledge.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1996). Social skill deficits and learning disabilities: A meta-analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(3), 226-237.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1995). The nature of learning disabilities: Critical elements of diagnosis and classification. Routledge.

Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (2012). Th nature of learning disabilities: Critical elements of diagnosis and classification. Routledge.Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (2012). The nature of learning disabilities: Critical elements of diagnosis and classification. Routledge.

Zabel, R. H., Kaff, M., & Teagarden, J. (2013). Promoting Interdisciplinary Practice: An Interview With Steven R. Forness. Intervention in School and Clinic, 49(4), 255-260.