The Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services through the 2014 Autism CARES Act (renewed in 2019) provides funding for Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) programs. LEND programs operate within a university system, usually as part of a University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) or other large entity, and collaborate with local university hospitals and/or health care centers. These collaborations provide the expert faculty, facilities, and other resources necessary to offer exceptional interdisciplinary training and services.
There are currently 60 LEND programs throughout the United States, including its territories. Collectively, they form a national network that shares information and resources to maximize their impact. While each LEND program is unique, with its own focus and expertise, they all provide interdisciplinary training, have faculty and trainees in a wide range of disciplines, including parents or family members and persons with disabilities (PWD, also called persons with lived experience or self-advocates). All fellows, regardless of discipline, share the same learning objectives.
The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program at the Institute for Community Inclusion at Boston Children's Hospital provides advanced interdisciplinary training to health and counseling professionals, families, and self-advocates to improve their knowledge in working with children, adolescents and young adults with developmental and related disabilities. This training is multi-focused and ranges from policy issues and team collaboration to specific clinical practice and support models. Trainees develop their leadership potential to improve the status of infants, children, and adolescents with (or at risk for) neurodevelopmental disabilities and to enhance systems of care for these children and their families.
LEND program objectives include: (1) advancing the knowledge and skills of the full range of child health professionals, family members, and self-advocates to improve health care delivery systems for children with developmental disabilities; (2) providing high-quality interdisciplinary education to health and allied professionals that emphasizes the integration of services supported by state, local agencies, organizations, private providers and communities; (3) providing a wide range of professionals, families, and self-advocates with the skills needed to foster a community-based partnership of health resources and community leadership; and (4) promoting innovative practice models that enhance cultural competency, partnerships among disciplines, and family-centered approaches to care.