1. MCH Workforce Development
  2. Funded Projects

Funded Projects

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities

Grant Status: Completed

Training Category: Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities (LEND)

Project Director(s):

Toni Whitaker, MD
Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
711 Jefferson Ave
Memphis, TN  38105-5003
Phone: (901) 448-6512


This LEND project will improve the health of infants, children and adolescents with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities or autism spectrum disorders, by preparation of trainees from a wide range of disciplines for leadership roles and interdisciplinary clinical competence.

Goals and Objectives:

Goal 1: Provide exemplary interdisciplinary leadership training in ASD and NDD, integrating clinical, didactic, research and advocacy experiences for 25 long-term and 55 medium-term trainees each year. Objective 1: Implement, evaluate and improve current exemplary, competency-based leadership curriculum that identifies needs throughout the life course to promote healthy growth and development of children with ASD and other NDD, emphasizing evidence-based strategies for assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Objective 2: All didactic and experiential curricular components include emphasis on integrated health care systems for children with ASD and related NDD and highlight best and promising practices designed to eliminate health care barriers and disparities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Objective 3: Implement, evaluate and refine a family mentoring program that introduces all trainees from all disciplines to the perspectives, daily experiences and responsibilities of raising a child with ASD and related NDD; family members will develop and teach the curriculum. Goal 2: Enhance training by incorporating emphasis on emerging health problems and practice issues. Objective 1: Extend the existing Life Course partnership with The Urban Child Institute (TUCI) to include the University of Memphis School of Public Health and other agencies to provide clinical, research and didactic experiences that illustrate the Life Course Model. Objective 2: Infuse a life course perspective in all training curricula that underscores the variety of social, economic and environmental factors that affect the health and developmental outcome of children with emphasis on developing comprehensive community solutions for those with special health care needs. Objective 3: Implement training, research, and service components to focus on at least five unique family structures such as: relative caregivers, foster care families, parents with intellectual disabilities, adult siblings as primary caregivers, aging parents of adults with NDD and adolescent parents. Goal 3: Foster the development of local, state, regional and national integrated systems of care for children with ASD and related NDD and their families. Objective 1: Implement, sustain and evaluate the existing, coordinated, comprehensive, interdisciplinary Regional Autism Consortium to provide evidence-based diagnostic and treatment services for children with ASD and their families. Objective 2: As part of the coordinated Southeast Regional LEND Consortium, develop and present at least one CE program each year on ASD-related topics to professionals and trainees in the region. Objective 3: All faculty participate on at least one Title V or related agency board, advisory panel or work group, to model and facilitate national, regional, state and local collaboration to enhance integrated systems of care that improve health outcomes for children with ASD , NDD, CYSHCN and their families.


The 11 Objectives under Goal I organize and deliver comprehensive interdisciplinary clinical and leadership training in NDD/ASD to 25 long-term and 55 medium-term trainees per year with emphasis on: integrated systems of care; family-centered, culturally responsive, evidence-based care; and collaborative supervised clinical research experiences. Training is enhanced by distance learning and technologies to maintain collaboration with graduated trainees as they enter the workforce. The six Objectives under Goal II infuse a life course perspective into training and focus on social determinants of health and development. Using this perspective, training occurs in unique and special family settings such as foster care, kinship care, and families where the parent has a disability. Objectives under Goal II build on close collaborative relationships with Title V and related agencies in TN and nationally with special focus on emerging public health and policy issues such as increasing rates of obesity, most prominently in the South and in people with disabilities, health care reform, and implementing home visiting initiatives for new mothers in communities at need. The six Objectives in Goal III organize and deliver continuing education in NDD/ASD to MCH professionals nationally, regionally and locally through conferences, distance learning offerings and formal, structured learning collaboratives. This Goal is organized around multiple partnerships.


Leadership training and continuing education are provided in the context of extensive formal and informal collaborations at the local, state and national level. Examples include the Memphis Regional Autism Consortium, the broadly representative Tennessee Autism Summit Team, the Southeast Regional Consortium of LEND/UCEDD programs working with Region IV Title V agencies, the Central Conference Training Consortium of LEND/UCEDD programs, and the national Autism CARES Act Initiative partners.


Formative and summative evaluations assess outputs and outcomes for each of the 23 outcome-based objectives. Evaluations are received from trainees and all continuing education participants, systematic benchmarking and review of annual MCHB performance measures, and program-specific outputs and outcome measures. Program improvement efforts are driven by these evaluations.