An aerial view of CSUN University Library is photographed on California State University, Northridge in Los Angeles, California, Wednesday, January 10, 2024. (Photo by Ringo Chiu / CSUN)
CSUN has received a $1.25 million federal grant to develop an interdisciplinary program to bridge the divide between those who work with young children with disabilities — educators, behavior interventionists and speech-language pathologists. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Media Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, carmen.chandler@csun.edu, (818) 677-2130

California State University, Northridge has received a $1.25 million federal grant to develop an interdisciplinary program to bridge the divide between those who work with young children with disabilities — educators, behavior interventionists and speech-language pathologists.

The end goal, said psychology professor Debra Berry Malmberg, is to ensure that children, including those from traditionally underrepresented communities, get the best services by the three areas working together collaboratively.

“Educators, behavior interventionists, and speech-language pathologists are all professionals who make up the teams working to ensure that children succeed, but they don’t always work together as well as they could”, Malmberg said. “Each field has its own language and its own approach. We are hoping to build a bridge, a common language, among those professionals so that the children they are working with can succeed to their fullest.”

“One of our goals,” said special education professor Zhen Chai, another lead on the project, “is to address the critical shortage of highly qualified early childhood special educators, behavior analysts and speech-language pathologists who are prepared to collaboratively serve infant, toddlers and young children with disabilities and their families, and to do so while being culturally sensitive to the needs of the people they are working with.”

The grant from the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education will fund “The Bridge Project: Transdisciplinary Preparation of Culturally Responsive Early Childhood Special Educators, Behavior Interventionists, and Speech-Language Pathologists to Serve Young Children with Disabilities.” The project is a collaboration between CSUN’s Department of Psychology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Department of Special Education in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education and the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences in the College of Health and Human Development.

A select cohort of master’s degree candidates from all three departments will be invited to take part in the project that will incorporate “culturally responsive, high-leverage, evidence-based practices in all facets of the program,” said co-principle investigator Vickie Yu, a professor of communication disorders and sciences.

Those accepted into the program, which starts this fall, will receive up to $27,000 to help them cover the costs of attending college, including tuition and living expenses, as well as funding to attend professional conferences in all three disciplines.

The students will take part in shared coursework and joint fieldwork experiences, all with the goal of building an understanding among the three disciplines to encourage stronger collaboration once they are professionals working with children.

To ensure their success, Malmberg said, the scholars will receive ongoing support and mentoring not only from project faculty, but community members.

“We’re training professionals who are going to go into the field with an understanding of what the other professionals they work with do and who can collaborate effectively as a team to best serve the children and families they are working with,” Malmberg said.

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Media Contact: carmen.chandler@csun.edu - (818) 677-2130

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