Cal State Northridge announced Monday that it was awarded almost $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education to create a project to help special education teachers work with behavior analysts of young children with disabilities classified as “high-intensity” needs.
The $907,584, five-year grant from the Office of Special Education Programs was awarded to the Early Childhood Special Education Program in CSUN’s Department of Special Education and the Applied Behavior Analysis Program in the university’s Department of Psychology.
“It’s understood that the sooner parents can get support for their children with high-intensity needs, the more likely it is that those children will make better progress,” said CSUN special education professor Zhen Chai, who is heading the project with psychology professor Tara Fahmie. “What we are talking about is launching an interdisciplinary collaborative training program in which people who provide support to very young children, early childhood special education educators and behavior analysts can truly work together for the best of the children and their families.”
The full name of the project is “The Bridge Project: Bringing Early Childhood Special Educators and Behavior Interventionists Together Through Interdisciplinary Evidence-Based Preparation to Serve Young Children with High Intensity Needs.”
“For too long, professionals in both fields have worked alongside each other without really knowing what the other does,” Fahmie said. “If we can create a shared language and perspective, an understanding of the roles that each profession plays in the child’s the development, it’s better for the child, the parents and everyone else involved.”
The project will focus on addressing the “critical shortage” of highly qualified professionals prepared to work with infants, toddlers and young children with high-intensity needs and their families, according to CSUN.
Masters-degree-level training will be provided to behavior analysts and early children special educators that will focus on supporting these children in inclusive settings and natural environments.
The money will enable 30 students to participate in the project over the next five years. The money also helps begin what professions said they hope will be an ongoing program.
The program’s first 10 students are expected to begin course work next summer.