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It is a rare occurrence that faculty from one department submitting three separate grant proposals to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs would all be successfully funded, and on the same day, But that is exactly what happened. Together, the three grants total more than $3.6 million.

TRaining InterdisciPLinary Educators to Support High-Needs Populations (TRIPLETS) is funded for five years and totals $1,250,000. Dr. Amy Spriggs is the principal investigator (PI), and Drs. Justin Lane and Sally Shepley are the co-principal investigators (Co-PI). The goal of the TRIPLETS project is to increase the number of (a) behavior analysts and (b) Special Education teacher leaders who have experience collaborating as mentors and related service providers to teachers in underserved and impoverished areas of rural Appalachia.

The grant will pair scholars in the Applied Behavior Analysis and Special Education Teacher Leader master’s degree programs to coach geographically isolated educators in the field who are serving students with high-intensity needs in rural areas of Appalachian Kentucky. It is anticipated that two cohorts of eight scholars (four behavior analysts and four teacher leaders) will receive funding through this grant, as well as one full-time doctoral student.

“TRIPLETS will focus on areas in Eastern Kentucky where resources are limited, so this grant will allow services in both instruction and behavior to be delivered in the highest need areas,” said Dr. Spriggs.

Special Education and Communication Disorders-Interdisciplinary Training (SPEAC-IT) is funded for five years and totals $1,153,000. Several faculty members from cooperating institutions and departments collaborated on this grant proposal. They include Drs. Jane Kleinert, PI (Communication Sciences and Disorders), Margaret Bausch, Co-PI (Early Childhood, Special Education, and Rehabilitation Counseling, or EDSRC), Melinda Ault, Co-PI (EDSRC), Judy Page, Co-PI (Communication Sciences and Disorders), and Jacqui Kearns, Co-PI (Human Development Institute).

The primary grant objective is to increase the number of fully-qualified personnel serving school-aged children with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities and complex communication needs. The project will prepare special educators and speech-language pathologist to collaborate in the development of effective communication systems for students with high-intensity needs.

“We in Communication Sciences and Disorders are so excited to have this opportunity to work in an inter professional pre-service program with Special Education faculty. Only a combined effort of the Speech/Language Pathologist and the classroom teacher can achieve consistent communication intervention for these students,” said Dr. Kleinert.

RElated Service Providers Education, Consultation, and Training for Children with Disabilities with Academic, Behavioral, and/or Social Communication Challenges (RESPECT) is funded for five years and totals $1,245,180. The grant is a collaboration of the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and School Psychology (SPY) programs at the University of Kentucky College of Education. Drs. R. Allan Allday (ABA), Jonathan Campbell (SPY), Rachel Hammond (SPY), and Alicia Fedewa (SPY) will manage the grant, which will train behavior analysts and school psychologists to work collaboratively to serve children with disabilities exhibiting academic, behavioral or social challenges. The RESPECT grant will serve schools in Central and Southeastern Kentucky.

The grant will support students in the ABA and SPY programs to complete activities, which include taking nine credit hours of shared graduate coursework in the first year of their funding. The courses will provide additional training in developing behavior intervention plans, academic and social communication skill development, and understanding psychological assessment and evaluation. Each course contains interdisciplinary group assignments.

In the second year, students will participate in field experiences supervised by a certified behavior analyst and school psychologist. Students will work collaboratively to assess, collect data, develop interventions, train teachers and evaluate effectiveness of interventions related to academic, behavioral, and/or social communication needs of a child with a disability within the practicum setting.

“The primary goal of the RESPECT grant is to build upon the strengths of the ABA and SPY programs by training our students to assess and intervene for academic, behavioral and social communication challenges,” Dr. Allday said.