By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service
Cal State LA has received three grants totaling $3.7 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The five-year training grants will help prepare graduate students to pursue innovative approaches in working with children with disabilities.
The grants were awarded to three teams of faculty in the Division of Special Education and Counseling, which is in the Charter College of Education at Cal State LA. The grants will provide scholarships for graduate students, who will learn to work across disciplines to develop new ways of addressing visual, spatial and language disabilities in school settings.
“In such a time of critical teacher shortages of qualified special educators, the federal funding of these three grants provides important resources to support graduate students in interdisciplinary preparation to pursue careers in various special education fields,” said Dean Cheryl Ney of the Charter College of Education at Cal State LA.
The three grant projects represent innovative pairings of professional expertise and personnel preparation in three specific areas:
One project trains teachers and rehabilitation counselors to work collaboratively to improve services for students with visual impairments who are preparing to transition from school to college or career. Professors Cheryl Kamei-Hannan and David Peterson are co-principal investigators of the grant project.
Another project supports orientation and mobility specialists and teachers of students with visual impairments as they earn master’s degrees and credentials in special education and clinical rehabilitative services. There is a growing demand in the field for graduates who hold dual certifications. Professor Diane L. Fazzi is the grant’s principal investigator, and Kamei-Hannan is the co-principal investigator.
“Cal State LA graduate students will take classes together and benefit from the collaborative, interdisciplinary preparation in these two programs. They will also be trained in teaching students with visual impairments on how to use technology, and to incorporate educational technology into their teaching and counseling services,” said Kamei-Hannan.
The third project brings together early childhood special educators and behavior analysts, creating interdisciplinary teams that focus on interventions that can improve social communication skills in young children who have various disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. Graduate students will participate in shared courses, fieldwork and seminars.
“There is a critical need for early childhood special education teachers and behaviorists to collaborate to improve outcomes for young children with high intensity needs,” explained Professor Jilly Ya-Chih Chang, principal investigator on the grant, along with Professor Mitch Fryling. “Children’s progress in their social communication can be enhanced by incorporating knowledge from multiple disciplines.”
Through support from the federal Personnel Preparation in Special Education, Early Intervention and Related Services program, the grants will address the state’s need to prepare more specialists to work with children with disabilities and ensure that they have both the broad knowledge and the specific skills to be successful in serving those students.
“Interdisciplinary training is the focus,” Ney said, “so that special educators are more fully prepared to work in interdisciplinary teams to ensure improved outcomes for preschool and K-12 students with disabilities.”
Photos: Above, A student participating in the orientation and mobility specialist training program at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA) Bottom, from left to right, Cheryl Kamei-Hannan, Mitch Fryling, Diane L. Fazzi, Jilly Ya-Chih Chang, and David Peterson. (Credit: Ana Garcia/Cal State LA)
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