Cross-campus team awarded $1.25 million for special education study
Breaking down the silos of public and higher education for the benefit of learners with disabilities and high intensity needs is the mission behind a new East Carolina University graduate project involving multiple colleges.
Project CONVEY (Collaborating to Overcome Needs by improving the Voice of Exceptional Youth) is funded by a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. It involves faculty from the ECU College of Education Department of Special Education, Foundations and Research, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology, and the College of Allied Health Sciences Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
“Our goal is to prepare graduate students to be K-12 professionals working with learners with disabilities within their specialties … but also be prepared to collaborate across disciplines,” said Sandra Warren, a professor in the College of Education Department of Special Education, Foundations and Research and principal investigator.
Project CONVEY will support four groups during the five-year span of the grant. Each group will consist of 12 graduate students — six from special education, three from psychology and three from speech-language pathology.
Funding from Project CONVEY covers full in-state tuition for each scholar and provides unique training and development opportunities in addition to their graduate coursework. In return, each student must work in public schools with students with disabilities for two years for every one year of support.
Geographically, the graduates can work anywhere in the United States or overseas through the U.S. Department of Defense, provided it is in a public school setting.
Marianna Walker, associate professor in the College of Allied Health Sciences Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and co-principal investigator, said the hope is to attract more of these professionals to public schools.
“Convincing (speech-language pathologists) to work in schools is important, so I’m hoping this will be a catalyst to get not only the CONVEY scholars to think about it, but maybe also encourage other students who are not even in the program,” Walker said. “The focus
of this project is to create a unified and collaborative team of special educators, school psychologists, and speech-language pathologists to work with children that have high intensity needs.”
The first students met during a summer institute on ECU’s Health Sciences Campus in June.
“We are training our students to work with students with high-intensity needs, so a lot of these children have severe communication disorders and are not speaking at all or need assistance in speaking,” Walker said. “We need to provide them with a method of communication.”