Trainees include self-advocates, family members, community leaders, researchers and clinicians
Are you passionate about improving the lives of autistic individuals and those with other neurodevelopmental disabilities? If so, you might be interested in the UC Davis MIND Institute’s LEND training program, which is currently recruiting for the 2022-2023 year.
LEND, or Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities, trains future leaders in the field. It brings together family members, self-advocates, community members, researchers and clinicians, who learn from experts and each other.
The program is free for trainees and is funded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal Child Health Bureau. It’s open to a wide range of people.
“I think a lot of times when people hear about this program, they think, ‘Oh, the MIND Institute, it’s only for academics,’ but that really is not the case,” said Kelly Heung, program manager for LEND. “We greatly value the expertise of family members, self-advocates and disability advocates as well as researchers and clinicians.”
Strength in interdisciplinary collaboration
The Northern California LEND program at the MIND Institute currently has 34 trainees from 11 disciplines. It’s rooted in interdisciplinary connections.
“The power of our program is the collaboration and the multiple disciplines that are represented. Our trainees really learn from each other,” Heung said.
Medium-term trainee Katharine Harlan Owens couldn’t agree more. She is focusing on supporting parents as they navigate services and support after a diagnosis. She’s also a parent advocate.
“I believe so much in collaboration and sharing resources and information and that’s what LEND really is,” Owens said. “It enables us to work even better together. The stronger we feel as leaders – not just parents, but truly being trained to be leaders – will help everyone.”
The MIND Institute also partners with Sacramento State University to expand the disciplines offered to trainees. Sacramento State Professor Katrin Mattern-Baxter serves as the LEND physical therapy discipline director.
“We have additional discipline directors from physical therapy, special education and speech therapy which really adds to the interdisciplinary expertise in LEND. Trainees have access to our clinics and programs at Sacramento State, which enhances the interdisciplinary opportunities for LEND trainees in these additional areas,” Mattern-Baxter explained.
An action-packed year
LEND is designed to be flexible, and there are options for trainees depending on the time commitment they can make. Long-term trainees complete a total of 300 or more training hours, while medium-term trainees complete 40-299 training hours. Long-term trainees receive a stipend.
All trainees have access to leadership seminars, clinical and community placement opportunities and a mentor. They also have the option to complete a leadership research project. They learn the latest evidence-based practices from experts in the field, get hands-on experience in clinical settings, and work with families and other professionals in the community. Increasing advocacy skills is also a significant focus. That includes learning about the legislative process and having the opportunity to meet with lawmakers.
“The goal of LEND is to fill in the gaps in training for leaders, families and professionals so that we will have more providers who can better serve those with developmental disabilities,” Heung explained.
A unique focus in Northern California
The MIND Institute’s LEND program is one of 60 LEND sites across the country. It’s one of four in California and the only one in the northern part of the state.
Due to its location, it covers a large geographic area and a significant rural population. This includes many people who aren’t easily able to access services.
“Our Northern California LEND really has an eye on better serving the underrepresented population which include under-resourced, racial and ethnic minorities, and English language learners,” Heung explained.
This is a major focus for current long-term LEND trainee Viviana Barnwell, whose leadership position is rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion.
“As a society we tend to forget that when a person has a disability, they might also be part of a minority group,” Barnwell said. “Those are the families I work with — immigrants and English learners. Sometimes we forget the intersectionality and the importance of teaching everyone, including professionals, about the difficulties these groups have in navigating systems.”
Barnwell is also focused on education and is working on a project about classroom equality.
LEND has been largely remote over the past two years due to COVID but the hope is to have a hybrid model in place when the next training year begins in September. Applications are due March 31. For more information, visit the LEND website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and potential prevention of challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.