Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND)

Core Curriculum

The following topics are addressed in courses offered as seminars, didactic presentations and case-based interactive learning methods:

The LEND Faculty represents a broad range of healthcare professions and includes members with appointments in the University of Pennsylvania and its Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Social Work, and Nursing, and Education, as well as individuals with leadership roles within The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Parents of children with neurodevelopment disabilities and related disorders, and adults with these conditions play an active role in the LEND program, serving as faculty and mentors to ensure fellows’ understanding of family-centered, culturally competent models of service provision. Guest speakers from The Disabilities Rights Network, the The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, the Institute on Disabilities of Temple University and other community-based organizations present regularly.

Course descriptions

Course I. Introduction to the Interdisciplinary Team and Interdisciplinary Case Conferences

Course Directors: Symme Trachtenberg, MSW, ACSW, LSW, and Nathan Blum, M.D
This course is designed to familiarize fellows with the roles and responsibilities of professionals from a variety of disciplines who are involved in assisting children and youth with special needs and their families. LEND fellows will explore the challenges to harmonious interdisciplinary team functioning and address the knowledge and skills necessary to promote positive team communication and practice. Cases from clinical practice will be integrated into the sessions, and fellows will address the cases from their respective fields of practice. Principles of providing family-centered and culturally competent care will be highlighted in the discussions. Over the course of the year 4 Interdisciplinary Case Conferences will be conducted. LEND fellows will participate on teams. Each team will select a case from one of the fellow’s practice and prepare to present the case in class. LEND Discipline Directors will attend these sessions, scheduled for the 4th Monday of September, November, January and March

Course II. Foundations for Culturally Competent Care

Course Directors: Karen M. Hudson, MSW, LSW & Kim Nixon-Cave, Ph.D.
Our society is becoming increasingly diverse. The children we serve, the families with whom we work and the composition of personnel within health care institutions and community-based agencies reflect increasing racial and cultural diversity. This course offers an overview of health disparities. Fellows will be invited to explore the roles and responsibilities of health care professionals in enhancing service delivery for children and families from diverse backgrounds. It will include information on ways to improve cross-cultural interactions that promote the delivery of health care; discussion of conflicts that can arise when children and their families’ health practices clash with standard medical care; and exploration of ways to improve communication with children and families of different cultures.

Course III. Family – Professional Collaboration

Course Director: Amy Kratchman
This course is designed to introduce fellows to the core concepts related to providing leadership in family-professional collaboration. Sessions will address collaboration among family members and health care professionals in the care of children with special needs, including parents’ emotional responses, practical needs, and family members’ perceptions of effective teamwork. Fellows will develop a better understanding of what it is like to care for a child with special needs from the family member’s perspective. This seminar will provide information about Family Centered Care, and how this approach of planning, delivering and evaluating health care, is grounded in mutually beneficial partnerships among patients, families, and health care practitioners.

Course IV. Conducting Research in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Related Disorders

Course Directors: Stephen S. Leff, Ph.D, Katherine Bevans, Ph.D.
The purpose of the course is to provide fellows with a basic understanding of the development of a systematic line of scientific inquiry through the use of participatory-action research and/or ethnographic methods. As such, the course emphasizes beginning the research process through partnership and collaboration with subjects. Fellows are encouraged to utilize both qualitative and/or quantitative methods. The course opens with discussion on how research is conceptualized through a combination of theory, prior empirical research, and key stakeholder input. Throughout the year the course emphasizes developing relationships with the research subjects, including methods for obtaining their input into the design, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of research.

Course V. Overview of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Course Director: Judith Silver, Ph.D.
This course provides an interdisciplinary faculty lecture and seminar series designed to provide an overview of key concepts, current best practices, and illustrations of interdisciplinary applications on a wide range of topics relevant to the care of children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities. Topics range from brain and CNS development, early child development and various neurodevelopmental disorders, systems issues (e.g., criminal justice system; child welfare system), pediatric ethical issues and advocacy tools.

Course VI. Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

Course Director: Judith Miller, Ph.D.
This course is designed to prepare LEND fellows to become knowledgeable about autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Topics include the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders and the diagnostic terms used; the impact of ASD on the family; case management and the burden parents often experience in caring for their child and navigating the services available to them; the history of ASD and the role of science, parent groups, and the media; epidemiological studies of the rate of ASD; the role of screening across a wide age range, the role of the interdisciplinary team in evaluation and treatment; evidence-based interventions; applied behavioral analysis; differentiating between ASDs and other psychiatric, behavioral, and medical conditions; and interdisciplinary assessment.

As part of this course, each LEND fellow will observe two evaluations at the interdisciplinary LEND ASD Assessment Clinic (always on Wednesdays). LEND fellows who can engage in screening as part of their current practice will be asked to incorporate screening into their regular care model and to report back the number of children screened for ASD.

Course VII: Public Policy and Children with Special Needs

Course Director: Judith Silver, Ph.D. with presentations by Rachel Mann, Esq., of the Pennsylvania Disabilities Rights Network, as well as Maura McInerney, Esq. and Janet Stotland, Esq. of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania
Federal and state policies and benefits for children with special needs and their families provide key supports to improve children’s access to adequate health care, education, safety, and community resources. Yet these policies on behalf of children are complex to negotiate and often fragmented. This course addresses policy development and implementation, legislation and entitlements in health care, disability, education and child welfare. Recent developments and practical strategies for health care professionals to ensure children with special needs receive their educational, health care, and other service entitlements are discussed.

Course VIII. Leadership Skills: Interpersonal Influence and Conflict Resolution

Course Director: Jennifer Plumb, DSW.
This seminar provides fellows with the opportunity to examine the theory and individual practice of leadership in today’s rapidly changing health care environment. The course director presents a framework for discussing leadership-in-action, with particular emphasis on the identification and development of one’s interpersonal influence in a variety of transactions. This seminar series assumes that leadership is practiced daily. It postulates that the development of one’s interpersonal abilities to influence and elicit change is as important as the imperative to develop professional discipline knowledge.

Course IX: Health Care Administration

Course Director: Bob Jauss
This course provides an overview of administrative issues that leaders in the healthcare field encounter as they seek to organize and manage programs that deliver health care services to children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, including strategic planning, marketing, operations, finance and budgeting and the creation and implementation of a business plan. The current realities of service delivery and program evaluation, in which competing interests vie for limited resources, will be examined within the context of the market place and organizational environment. Practical examples of how clinical leaders can collaborate with administrative leaders to design, implement and evaluate programs that deliver health care services to these children and their families will be discussed. The aim of this course is to balance the challenges inherent in providing services to children with special needs and their families with a sense of optimism regarding the positive potential to develop well-designed, well-run programs to promote positive outcomes for these children and the organization.

Course X: Feeding Disorders in Infants and Young Children

Course Director: Sharon M. Greis, M.A., CCC/SLP
This course will focus on the complex factors contributing to pediatric swallowing and feeding disorders. An overview of the anatomy, physiology, and development of feeding will provide the groundwork for understanding the assessment and management of pediatric dysphagia. Discussion will address the developmental, medical, behavioral, and nutritional issues that impact a child’s feeding skill progression, weight gain, and growth. The course will introduce an examination of feeding disorders as well as current methodology and treatment approaches. Case presentations will be the basis of discussion with videotaped illustrations.

Course XI: Use of Assistive Technology for Functional Gain

Course Directors: Jennifer Burstein, M.A., CCC/SLP & Louise Wulfsohn, M.S., OTR/L
This course combines lectures introducing assistive technology and assessment considerations with elective, hands-on experiences in which fellows will learn how to work with and program electronic writing tools and augmentative communication devices. Topics include pertinent legislation, funding issues, integrating the acquisition and use of these materials in developing goals for children’s IFSPs and IEPs.

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