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UVA professors bring interdisciplinary child care program to the Blue Ridge

Rotunda at the University of Virginia
Rotunda at the University of Virginia
Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 8:44 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Two professors at the University of Virginia are leading an effort to improve care for kids with autism and other disabilities.

The leadership Education in Neurodevelopment and Related Disabilities, known as the LEND program, is actually getting its own Blue Ridge sector. This program provides a range of graduate-level training for an important field.

“Interdisciplinary care is so important for children with disabilities,” director and UVA professor, Micah Mazurek said. “Providing the fellows the opportunity to learn from other disciplines and to learn from people with disabilities themselves can really improve the systems that are here in Virginia.”

The systems here are getting that improvement, thanks to a $2.2 million grant that will fund this comprehensive learning program.

“We don’t want just practitioners,” co-director and UVA professor, Dr. Beth Ellen Davis said. “We want people who are finishing their graduate level studies who are getting ready to go out into practice. We want those people to learn about what it means to be an interdisciplinary team around the complexity of individuals with disabilities, so it’s a win, win, win grant.”

The Blue Ridge LEND will be one of 60 federally funded programs across the country.

For Micah Mazurek and Dr. Beth Ellen Davis, this hits close to home. They were both involved in LEND programs during their own education, and now they’re taking their experience and making improvements here.

“We have a special focus on rural and Appalachia areas of the commonwealth,” Mazurek said. “So, I think that’s an underserved group of families and so we’re hoping to improve access to care and local communities as well.”

While these two professors both come from the University of Virginia, this program will extend further.

“We’ve created with Mary Baldwin University and then extending beyond, so we have initiated relationships with other universities up and down the Blue Ridge,” Dr. Beth Ellen Davis said.

Growing the number of disciplines that support children with disabilities, is the goal, and making them more readily available.

“It kind of gives us a little space to all get together and talk about what to do, what can we do to support these children with special needs and their families, especially those who are in rural areas who might not have access to other supports,” Dr. Beth Ellen Davis said.

These professors say they pulled together trainees from all different parts of the universities in their newest cohort of fellows. The education involves interactive skills seminars, hands-on training in clinics and real time working with children with disabilities and their families.

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