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On July 1 the University of Minnesota became home to the state’s first-ever federally-funded LEND program (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities), coordinated by the Department of Pediatrics and the Institute on Community Integration (ICI). Funded by a two-year, $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, to the Department of Pediatrics, the Minnesota LEND is an interdisciplinary training program preparing future leaders who will serve children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families in health care, education, human services, and policy settings.
It is estimated that 1 out of every 10 children and adolescents in the U.S. has a neurodevelopmental disability (NDD), and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are among the fastest growing in reported prevalence over the past decade. To respond to the needs of these children and their families, the Minnesota LEND will bring together faculty, staff and students from 11 disciplines across the University to:
“The Minnesota LEND gives our state a great opportunity to help prepare future leaders to provide comprehensive services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other neurodevelopmental disabilities, as well as their families,” says Dr. Michael Reiff, Minnesota LEND Project Director and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. “Autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders are complex and require a strong interdisciplinary approach. The funding for this program allows us to be able to work across the University to develop and provide that.”
Amy Hewitt, LEND Training Director, notes, “The Minnesota LEND not only provides the University with an unprecedented opportunity to provide leadership training in neurodevelopmental disabilities to students across many academic disciplines, but to also do so in partnership with community organizations such as Gillette Children’s Hospital, and with families.”
And Joe Reichle, LEND Research Director and Professor of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and Educational Psychology, adds, “The LEND also offers an important opportunity to coordinate research across a number of disciplines and community partners, exploring cutting-edge practices that can improve the lives of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.”