LEND training equips students in special education with knowledge to assist those with disabilities

by the College of Education at Illinois  /   Sep 18, 2017

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Starting last year the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign became a partner with and a host site for a federally funded five-year program called Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND), which prepares students to serve as leaders in enhancing the quality of life for children with disabilities and their families, with a focus on autism.

Since the program’s inception at Illinois, the College of Education has hosted two yearlong training sessions for several LEND trainees. According to site coordinator Meghan Burke, an associate professor in the Department of Special Education, these students participate in a didactic and clinical training to serve individuals with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities in an interdisciplinary manner.

Burke anticipates that LEND will grow over time, enabling more graduate students to participate in the training, which includes video conferences with peers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the program is based.

Our graduate students will have an interdisciplinary background, making them better equipped to forge meaningful change for individuals with disabilities and their families."Meghan Burke

“By coordinating the LEND program at Illinois, our graduate students will have an interdisciplinary background, making them better equipped to forge meaningful change for individuals with disabilities and their families," Burke said.

Student LEND trainees come from both the College and other campus departments. Last year Burke collaborated with Special Education doctoral student Chung eun Lee on a project titled “Adult Siblings’ Perceptions Toward Caregiving: A Synthesis of Literature Review.” That investigation delved into how sibling studies define sibling caregiving, the experiences of sibling caregivers of brothers and sisters with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the roles siblings perform for their brothers and sisters with such disabilities.  

This year Burke is assisting Special Education students Kristina Rios and Hsiu-Wen Yang with their research in the LEND program, projects that the students at this point are still contemplating before they begin.

Sparked from the Children’s Bureau program of the 1950s, LEND is in 44 states and has a collective network of 52 programs that share information and resources to maximize impact. Each program has its own area of expertise, but all of them provide interdisciplinary training, have faculty and trainees from a wide range of disciplines, and include parents or family members who are paid program participants.

Student attending Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities training session at the College of EducationLEND trainees can be graduate students, working professionals, family members, and self-advocates. Along with Illinois and UIC, other LEND sites include Southern Illinois University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and RUSH University. The 15 different disciplines include applied behavior analysis, nursing, nutrition, social work, special education, and speech language.