Campus News

$1.25M grant to help launch new graduate special education program

A five-year $1.25 million federal grant will help the College of Education launch a new graduate program to train behavior specialists how to assess and treat children with developmental disabilities who show severe aggressive behavior.

The project’s aim is to train more school staff in behavior management-so that there are fewer disruptions in classrooms and students learn better. Ultimately, having behavior specialists on staff could save school systems money by not having to hire outside consultation and out-of-school placement for these students.

Researchers Kevin Ayres and Scott Ardoin, both associate professors in the College of Education, said the project also will generate more knowledge about how to work with these children through the research they conduct.

Nearly 80 percent of the grant will support fellowships for ­students who enroll in the new master’s or educational specialist degree programs in special education. Fellowship recipients will be required to work with children with disabilities for two years for each one full-time academic year of funding. The program’s first students will enroll for spring semester 2014.

The program will graduate at least 30 new behavior analysts and train another 30 individuals who are not directly part of the program but who will benefit from the coursework. Graduates of the course must pass a national examination to become board-certified behavior analysts.

Students in the program must take 38 graduate credit hours of classes on behavioral support for children with developmental disabilities who display severe aggressive behavior. They also must receive 1,000 hours of real-world experience in area schools and UGA clinics. In addition, the students will participate in an intensive “boot camp” focusing on the underlying environmental reasons for severe aggressive behavior at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta.