Vanderbilt earns $6.6M in special education training grants

Woman teaching graduate students

A number of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) members and investigators who are faculty within the Department of Special Education (SPED) at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development have received training grants totaling $6.6 million. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The new OSEP training grants will focus on preparing master’s and doctoral students to work with children with disabilities.

VKC-affiliated faculty are marked below with an asterisk (*). The new training grants include:

Interdisciplinary, Evidence-Based Approaches to Educating Students with Severe Disabilities and Special Healthcare Needs

Eric Carter, Ph.D.

Eric Carter, Ph.D.

Students with severe disabilities often present special medical and health care needs. This project will train master’s candidates in the nature, causes, and outcomes of various severe disability conditions and in evidence-based interventions to improve the outcomes for students with autism or severe disabilities. Eighteen master’s students from the Severe Disabilities Program in SPED and eight from the Department of Psychology and Human Development’s Child Studies Program will be recruited. Assistant professor Alexandra Da Fonte* is principal investigator (PI). Co-PIs are Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor Erik Carter*, Professor Robert Hodapp*, and Associate Professor Joseph Lambert* in SPED and Assistant Clinical Professor Vicki Harris*.

Preparing Leaders in Special Education to Meet the Intensive Needs of Students with Complex Learning Disabilities

Douglas Fuchs

Douglas Fuchs, Ph.D.

The demand for special education faculty in higher education is much greater than the supply. Faculty may also lack expertise in scientifically or evidence-based practices for children with complex learning disabilities. Children often have disabilities in more than one academic or behavioral domain, which intensifies learning and behavioral difficulties. This grant offers full-time support for five doctoral students. Its purpose is to prepare future faculty to train new generations of special educators in assessment and intensive interventions for children with CLD. These faculty are also envisioned as developing a cohort of special education scientists who will contribute to the knowledge base of evidence-based practices for children with CLD. Professor Marcia Barnes is PI. Co-PIs are Douglas Fuchs*, Nicholas Hobbs Professor of Special Education and Human Development; Lynn Fuchs*, Dunn Family Professor in Psychoeducational Assessment; associate professor Christopher Lemons*; assistant professor Blair Lloyd*; Jeanne Wanzek*, Currey-Ingram Professor in Special Education; and associate professor Joseph Wehby*.

Junior Colleague Approach for Preparing Leaders to Improve Social and Behavioral Outcomes for Young Children with Disabilities

Ann Kaiser, Ph.D.

Ann Kaiser, Ph.D.

The primary goal of this project is to train five full-time doctoral students as researchers, scholars, and leaders in higher education in early childhood special education and early intervention. The project will also prepare trainees to address the needs of children with challenging behavior and their families from high-need communities as they conduct research, provide professional development, and prepare personnel. Students will be prepared to assume positions as higher-education faculty and to enhance and provide early intervention services for children with disabilities, particularly children who evidence challenging behavior or delays in developing social competence. Ann Kaiser*, Susan W. Gray Professor of Education and Human Development, is PI. Co-PIs are associate professor Erin Barton*, professor Mary Louise Hemmeter*, and assistant professor Jennifer Ledford*.

DBI by Design: A Design Thinking Approach to Enhance Educators’ Use of Data-Based Individualization to Improve Literacy Skills of Students with Intellectual Disability

Chris Lemons, Ph.D.

Chris Lemons, Ph.D.

DBI by Design addresses the recent call from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to establish a model demonstration project to improve academic outcomes of students with intellectual disability. Ongoing professional development and coaching through a supported professional-learning community model is intended to increase teachers’ knowledge and skill related to data-based individualization and evidence-based literacy and supporting instructional practices. The project is designed to enhance teacher knowledge and skill, student outcomes in literacy, alignment of instruction with grade-level standards, access to the general education curriculum, and alignment of Individualized Education Programs. Teachers and students from four school districts – including Macon County, Robertson County, and Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee and the New York City Department of Education – will participate. Christopher Lemons* is PI. Jennifer Ledford* and Joseph Lambert* are co-PIs.

Project BASE: Supporting Children with High-Intensity Behavioral, Academic, Social, and Emotional Needs

A collaboration between the Departments of Special Education and Human Organization and Development, Project BASE is designed to train intervention specialists and school counselors to work as a team to design and carry out effective practices for students with disabilities who have high-intensity needs. Twenty SPED master’s students will be recruited and will hold licensure in general education (an elementary, middle school or secondary content area) or special education. Six master’s students from HOD’s School Counseling Program interested in students with disabilities will be recruited. Associate professor Kim Paulsen is PI. Senior lecturer Nicole Cobb is co-PI.

Joan Brasher is public affairs officer in the VU Division of Communications.

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