VCU, Longwood University receive $1M grant to improve therapy services for children with disabilities

vcuVirginia Commonwealth University, in collaboration with Longwood University, has received a $1.07 million grant to work with students, teachers and families to support children with disabilities.

Beginning in August, the five-year U.S. Department of Education grant awarded by the Office of Special Education Programs will be used to train 40 occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology students at VCU and Longwood to collaborate with school staff toincrease participation among students with disabilities. Through online learning modules, lectures, clinical affiliations and mentorship, students in the Interdisciplinary Training for Inclusive Practices program will develop shared competencies to improve outcomes for children with disabilities.

“Our scholars will be prepared to meet the unique needs of school teams to ensure that children receive quality care,” said Carole K. Ivey, Ph.D., principal investigator on the grant and an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy in VCU’s College of Health Professions.

“Teachers are eager to welcome newly prepared scholars who have received this specialized training to work toward the shared goal of high achievement for all,” Ivey said.

“Higher achievement in the classroom is linked to better outcomes in independent living, vocational and postsecondary opportunities and employment,” said Patricia Laverdure, O.T.D., project coordinator, assistant professor and director of fieldwork in the Department of Occupational Therapy. “By increasing the amount of highly qualified practitioners in the classroom, we will not only help students reach their academic and functional goals, but we will also prepare them to be a productive member of their community.”

The focus of the grant aligns with VCU’s commitment to community engagement. The Interdisciplinary Training for Inclusive Practices programalso features a service-learning component where scholars work with community partners to learn about an array of disabilities, and the impact they have on children’s participation in school. This service-learning element involves partners from the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and REACHcycles.

In addition to Laverdure, Ivey will be working with Stacey Dusing, Ph.D., associate professor in the VCU Department of Physical Therapy, and Lissa Power-deFur, Ph.D., professor and director of Speech, Language and Hearing Services at Longwood University.

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