Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND)

The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) Interdisciplinary Training Program is a 1-year intensive training program that incorporates both didactic and experiential learning in clinical and community-based settings. This program prepares future leaders who will serve children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (with a focus on autism) and their families through coordinated, culturally competent, and family-centered care, in addition to public health services and policy systems change.

The LEND Program provides long-term, graduate level interdisciplinary training designed to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals with disabilities. This goal is accomplished by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields, and by ensuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence. LEND focuses training on the policy, advocacy, research and clinical skills necessary to affect positive change on all levels, from the individual to systems.

There are currently 43 LENDs in 37 states. Collectively, they form a national network that shares information and resources to maximize their impact. They work together to address national issues of importance to children with special health care needs and their families, exchange best practices and develop shared products. They also come together to address regionally specific issues and concerns.

While each LEND program has its own focus and expertise, they all provide interdisciplinary training, have faculty and trainees from a wide range of disciplines, and include parents or family members as paid program participants. They also share the following objectives:

  1. Advancing the knowledge and skills of all child health professionals to improve health care delivery systems for children with developmental disabilities;
  2. Providing high-quality interdisciplinary education that emphasizes the integration of services from state and local agencies and organizations, private providers, and communities;
  3. Providing health professionals with skills that foster community-based partnerships; and
  4. Promoting innovative practices to enhance cultural competency, family-centered care, and interdisciplinary partnerships.

The LENDs grew from the 1950s efforts of the Children’s Bureau (now the Maternal and Child Health Bureau) to identify children with disabilities as a Title V program priority. The LENDs are currently funded under the 2006 Combating Autism Act and are administered by the Health Resources and Service’s Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).

The Illinois LEND was founded in 2008. It is one of the first LEND programs to have self-advocacy as one of its disciplines.

Disability Studies Program

UIC’s exemplary Disability Studies program, which currently has 74 Masters and Ph.D. students, provides an ongoing stream of students interested in disability research. Our department also provides research and training experience to 30 students from 13 different disciplines from UIC, University of Chicago, Southern Illinois and Rush Universities, and three schools of psychology.