Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs aim to improve health outcomes for people with autism spectrum (AS) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. These programs provide graduate-level training to the next generation of clinical, research, and community leaders.
The purpose of the LEND training program is to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities. They accomplish this by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields and by ensuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence.
LEND programs operate within a university system, usually as part of a University Center for Excellence (UCEDD) or other larger entity, and collaborate with local university hospitals and/or health care centers. This set-up gives them the expert faculty, facilities, and other resources necessary to provide exceptional interdisciplinary training and services.
The LEND Network
There are 60 LEND programs in every state, the District of Columbia, the United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and six Pacific Basin jurisdictions, either as an awardee or in partnership with a LEND program.
Collectively, they form a national network that shares information and resources and maximizes their impact. They work together to address national issues of importance to children with special health care needs and their families, exchange best practices, and develop shared products. They also come together regionally to address specific issues and concerns.
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, and include parents or family members as paid program participants. They also share the following objectives:
- Advance the knowledge and skills of all child health professionals to improve health care delivery systems for children with developmental disabilities.
- Provide high-quality interdisciplinary education that emphasizes the integration of services from state and local agencies and organizations, private providers, and communities.
- Provide health professionals with skills that foster community-based partnerships.
- Promote innovative practices to enhance cultural competency, family-centered care, and interdisciplinary partnerships.
The LENDs grew from the 1950s efforts of the Children's Bureau (now the Maternal and Child Health Bureau) to identify children with disabilities as a Title V program priority. They are funded under the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act, and are administered by the Health Resources and Service Administration's (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).