The University of Virginia and Mary Baldwin University are teaming up to train future healthcare professionals to work with children who have autism and other developmental disabilities. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.
The program is called Blue Ridge Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, or Blue Ridge LEND for short.
PAMELA STEPHENSON: We know that health outcomes and access to health services, there's an equity gap between rural, underserved areas and urban areas. So we're privileged to be able to do something that, in some way, addresses that.
Pamela Stephenson, one of the program's professors, teaches occupational therapy at Mary Baldwin. The program is partially funded by a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
Stephenson says some services for children -- including occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and psychology -- are lacking.
Carolyn Moore teaches physical therapy. She said that access to transportation for those treatments is also an issue.
CAROLYN MOORE: And a lot of the parents, they both work outside of the home, and so that's another reason it's hard to access services, is because after finding childcare and being at work, there's very little time to pursue medical diagnosis.
Grad-level students in various medical and special education fields at both MBU and UVa will get a firsthand look at families' needs through the program.
MOORE: They're going to have a family mentor them that has a child with a developmental disability or other diagnosis … And then the next year they're actually going to have a capacity to be able to be at UVa in the pediatric clinic.