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University of Maine receives federal grant to train special educators

Downs Syndrome Man Sitting With Tutor Using Laptop

The University of Maine will provide funding to support 40 graduate students working toward master’s degrees in special education or communication sciences and disorders with an early childhood intervention focus thanks to a nearly $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. 

The Cross-disciplinary Online Training to promote Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Tele-Intervention for Maine (CONTAACT-ME) project will train educators to support young children with intensive communication needs and their families, including the use of augmentative and alternative communication tools. UMaine will receive $249,950 from the U.S. DOE during the first year of the grant, with continued funding expected for five years.

Deborah Rooks-Ellis, assistant professor of special education in the College of Education and Human Development’s School of Learning and Teaching and director of the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research, will lead the project. Partners include Jennifer Seale, assistant professor in the UMaine Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the Maine Department of Education.

“Infants and young children with high-intensity needs also commonly have communication impairments, which, when left unaddressed, increase a child’s risk for limited cognitive, language, and social development,” Rooks-Ellis says.

“Early interventionists and speech-language pathologists serving this population are critical for helping families, related service providers and educators recognize how they can support a child’s social skill development,” says Rooks-Ellis.

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