New Interdisciplinary Autism Training Grant will Help Produce Leaders in Research and Outreach

A new interdisciplinary training grant to help doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows at UNC develop leadership competencies related to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has received $1,246,834 in funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The project, titled “Interdisciplinary Leadership in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Optimizing Research-Practice Partnerships for Evidence-Based Outcomes,” will draw on the resources and expertise from the Divisions of Speech and Hearing Sciences and Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy within the School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Sciences (DAHS), and the Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education (ADSSE) program in the School of Education.  The focus of the program is to prepare students to assume leadership positions in institutions of higher education and to guide research, practice, and policy regarding evidence-based outcomes for children and youth with ASD.

In addition to the grant’s co-principal investigators, Drs. Elizabeth Crais and Grace Baranek from the DAHS and Dr. Harriet Able from the School of Education, several other faculty will teach courses and provide mentorship, including Drs. Linda Watson, Brian Boyd, and Brenda Mitchell from the DAHS, Drs. Becky New and Lynne Vernon-Feagans from the School of Education, and Drs. Sam Odom, Cara Hume, and Gary Martin from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.

The project is currently recruiting its first cohort of six students from the Speech and Hearing Sciences, Occupational Science, and Education doctoral programs to begin training in August.  The grant funding will last for five years, offering two post-doctoral positions to two of the trainees during the grant’s final year. Click here to download a pdf flyer with more information about applying for the grant.

“Much like our previous Autism Leadership Training Grant, which helped launch the careers of nine promising new researchers, this project will provide invaluable interdisciplinary training and insight for participants,” said Dr. Crais.

Eight of the nine previous grant students are currently in positions in academic settings as faculty or post-doctoral fellows, with the final student graduating this year.

The project’s interdisciplinary courses, research opportunities, and teaching experiences will target specific leadership competencies related to expertise in theoretical models and empirical literature related to ASD, community engagement and translational research, professional development and teaching, grant writing, and interdisciplinary leadership/ advocacy focused on children and youth with ASD.  Infused throughout all project activities will be strategies to raise awareness, understanding, and competency in working with diverse learners with ASD and their families.  The project also emphasizes strategies to collaborate with community stakeholders, including practitioners and family members, of children with ASD across all phases of research from planning to implementation and dissemination.

“We anticipate that the participants in the current grant will become leaders in their individual disciplines at the same time that they cross traditional disciplinary boundaries to collaborate with professionals from other fields,” said Dr. Crais.

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