Individuals with low-incidence disabilities are between the ages of 3 and 21. They have vision, hearing and/or cognitive impairments, or other disabilities that require the help of trained professionals who design and deliver educational programs.
Federal law requires that schools provide free appropriate education to such students. The ECU Department of Special Education in the School of Education received the grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. It will cover a five-year period at $300,000 a year.
Dr. David A. Powers, chair of the ECU Department of Special Education, said "There is a desperate shortage of appropriately trained personnel in North Carolina to assist people with these kinds of disabilities."
He said that he and Dr. Melissa Engleman, a professor in special education, wrote the grant as a way to help bring more trained teachers into the field. Powers and Engleman will co-direct the program.
They will use the money for courses and to assist graduate students who are seeking master's degrees in the low-incidence disabilities field. The students will study rehabilitation processes, physical education, sign language and related technologies.
In addition the grant will support the development at ECU of new courses that will cover special education issues for students who major in fields such as elementary and middle grades education, adaptive physical education, child development and family relations, rehabilitation studies as well as the departments in secondary education.
"Because many people with low-incidence disabilities are learning, living and working in mainstream settings it is very important that professionals from a variety of disciplines acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to work effectively with this population," Powers said. Engleman described the grant as "an important funding accomplishment for the Department of Special Education" and said it is a much needed resource to address such critical issues as teacher shortages and the need for highly qualified personnel.
She said that along with the special education training and collaborative teaching in several departments, the grant will provide new learning opportunities for teachers who are already in the field, to acquire skills in sign language, Spanish, Hispanic and Latino culture, and the technologies that support the special education practices this population requires. The project is slated to begin in August.
ECU News Bureau