Early Childhood Special Education professor awarded 1.25 million grant from U.S. Department of Education

1.25 million grant will be used to improve services and results for young children with disabilities and their families.

jennifer kilgoThe University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of six U.S. universities selected to receive funding to help address state-identified needs for highly qualified personnel in early intervention/education programs.

Professor Jennifer Kilgo, Ed.D., has been awarded a $1.25 million grant that will help improve services and results for young children with disabilities and their families.

Kilgo, a professor of early childhood special education in the UAB School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, spearheads a program that produces educators who are skilled in working with professionals from various agencies and disciplines to improve early intervention services and outcomes for young children with disabilities.

“These grants help support programs like ours, and they also help raise awareness for early intervention,” Kilgo said. “Even though it has been around for quite some time, people still don’t understand what early intervention is and how important it is for enhancing development in children who have been diagnosed with autism, developmental delays or other disabilities.”

The grant will fund scholarships for graduate students, provide research opportunities, and support collaboration between the School of Education’s early intervention/early childhood special education program and the School of Health Professions’ occupational and physical therapy programs, which comprise Project TransTeam.

The program expects to prepare 70 scholars prepared during a five-year period through an EI/ECSE graduate program that includes transdisciplinary coursework, seminars and fieldwork. These scholars will be able to provide improved services for young children with delays and disabilities and their families, including those from culturally diverse backgrounds and high-need areas.

“We will be able to provide full scholarships to 14 scholars every year, for five years. That is a substantial amount of graduate students. 100 percent of our graduates have been able to secure employment to meet the early intervention and special education needs of young children with disabilities in Alabama and other states.”

“We will be able to provide full scholarships to 14 scholars every year, for five years,” said Kilgo. “That is a substantial amount of graduate students. 100 percent of our graduates have been able to secure employment to meet the early intervention and special education needs of young children with disabilities in Alabama and other states.”

Students and graduates of the program work with community organizations such as the Rise School of Tuscaloosa, Mitchell’s Place, the Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs and other programs in the community.

“If it is determined that a child has a delay or disability, early intervention can make a huge difference across their life span,” Kilgo said. “Interventionists serve parents and children at a very early age. Our program focuses on infants to children 8 years of age. There also is a focus on preschool-age children to help them transition into school.”

This summer, students of Project TransTeam partnered with the Vestavia Hills Department of Special Education to provide an assistive technology program for children during Camp iMagination, a summer technology camp for children with special needs.

Project TransTeam is looking to recruit a diverse group of new students interested in obtaining a graduate degree to further enhance the number of qualified personnel in the field.

“We are targeting students outside of the field, those who don’t have undergraduate degrees that you think would be a natural pipeline to early childhood education,” Kilgo said.

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