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An APTA-backed advocacy effort to enhance education around working with children with disabilities is paying off — literally. Recently the U.S. Department of Education announced recipients of new grant awards that will fund innovative programs taking unique approaches to enhance the capacity of the early intervention workforce, including physical therapists. Among the recipients: three universities where five APTA members will be involved.

Recipients with connections to APTA include:

The Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development ($1.09 million over five years).  The center will use the grant to increase the number of qualified physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists to serve young children (birth-5) who have high-intensity disabilities and their families. APTA member Toby Long, PT, PhD, FAPTA, will help lead the program.

The University of South Dakota ($1.24 million over five years). USD will partner with multiple programs throughout the state to address South Dakota’s early-childhood intervention needs and train personnel to serve infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families by implementing a targeted training program to prepare 37 Program for Advancing Childhood Early Intervention scholars over the course of the five-year grant period. APTA members Patti Berg-Poppe, PT, PhD, and Hsinyi  Liu, PT, DPT, PhD, will help lead the program.

Hawaii Pacific University ($1.1 million over five years). HPU will use the grant to enhance the capacity of the early-intervention physical therapy workforce in Hawaii, specifically for young children with developmental delays and their families. APTA members Mary Jane Rapport, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA, and Tricia Catalino, PT, DSc, will lead the program.

The grant program is the result of discussions between APTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, and DOE around ongoing understaffing issues among support personnel in public schools. Those discussions were informed by meetings between DOE and the National Alliance for Specialized Instructional Support Personnel, of which APTA is a member, as well as conversations between DOE representatives and APTA members affiliated with APTA Pediatrics' school special interest group.  

"It's clear from these grants that the Department of Education understands the dire situation we're facing in schools, and APTA is grateful for their response to our advocacy,” said Rachel Miller, MPH, APTA health policy and payment specialist. "APTA members engaging in the grants process, and then being among the recipients of this inaugural round of funding, makes this win even more meaningful."

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