A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) professor has been awarded a $710,000 grant for the continuation of an interdisciplinary training program for health professionals with the aim of improving services for children with developmental disabilities.
UAMS, according to a news release, has directed the Arkansas Regional Leadership Education in Neuro-Developmental Disabilities (LEND) Project since 1994, funded by grants from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
As many as 18% of children have developmental and/or behavioral problems, according to UAMS. The grouping includes autism spectrum disorders, which impact one in 65 children in Arkansas.
Dr. Eldon G. Schulz of the UAMS Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine, is principal investigator of the program and administrator of the grant.
“Too few health professionals have the necessary skills to diagnose and provide the proper treatments for developmental disabilities,” Schulz said in the release. “Participants in this program emerge with a better sense of the entire system that these children face and the barriers to care that they encounter.”
Thirty-two postgraduate trainees from 14 disciplines — ranging from audiology to nursing to psychiatry to health administration — complete a two-semester, 300-hour curriculum that includes classes, problem-based learning, clinical rotations and research and leadership projects.
“Our trainees are the cream of the crop in their fields, and we want tomorrow’s leaders in health care to already be thinking of ways they can intervene — be it as citizens or as professionals — on behalf of these families and children, with the ultimate goal of improving their treatment and their access to care; improving their lives; expanding their future possibilities for joining the workforce and participating in society,” Schulz said.
UAMS partners with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Central Arkansas and the University of Southern Mississippi for the program. They host the trainees’ coursework and provide faculty and mentors for the participants. Partners for Inclusive Communities, which is the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Center on Disabilities program, organizes and administers the program.
“Traditionally, our health professionals have not gotten a lot of training on how to work in interprofessional teams,” said David Deere, executive director of Partners for Inclusive Communities. “For a lot of the complex conditions that kids with disabilities have — autism being an increasingly common example — it’s really important to be able to coordinate services, understand what other professions do, make referrals to other services when necessary and work collaboratively on everything from screening to diagnosis and interventions.”