Western Carolina University has been awarded a $1.25 million federal grant for groundbreaking efforts to train professionals to work with children with autism.
According to a press release this month from the university, the grant will be distributed over a five-year period, and will be used to train students in psychology, speech language pathology, and special education on how to address the needs of children on the autistic spectrum. The first group of 12 students will be selected this semester, with a November 15 deadline for signing up.
Specifically, the funding will go towards the creation of Interprofessional Collaborative Autism Training, or INTERACT, a program designed to address the academic, behavioral, and communication needs of those on the autistic spectrum.
“Project INTERACT is an amazing opportunity for students in psychology, special education and speech-language pathology at Western,” Bill Ogletree, a professor of communication disorders at WCU, said. “Given the interprofessional nature of training and the exceptionally talented faculty team, this project has the potential to change the face of service delivery for children with autism and their families.”
In addition to Ogletree, the project team will be led by psychology doctoral program director Jon Campbell; special education professor Karena Cooper-Duffy; communications sciences and disorders associate professor Johanna Price; and assistant professor of communication sciences Amy Rose.
Price said the program’s graduates will receive “cutting edge training to provide services for children with autism and intellectual disabilities, a population that continues to grow in Western North Carolina, as it does across the country. They will learn with, and from, each other through a series of integrated courses and clinical experiences.”
Participating students will receive one year of graduate school at no cost, will have access to a travel fund for continued education, and will receive a certificate of training upon completion.
The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the number of personnel serving children with autism in the community.
“Families in our region who are affected by autism also will benefit as our students and faculty provide assessments, consultations and evidence-based interventions,” Price said, “not just now, but for years to come, as more providers will be specifically trained to assess and treat autism and how to work together.”