New grant funds special education program

Ashley Gerenday

Kent State University’s special education program recently received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the Early Intervention in Natural Environments Specialization Training program, which will be taught through distance learning.

Sanna Harjusola-Webb, assistant professor in the special education department, applied for the grant with her colleague Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, professor in the lifespan development and education sciences department.

“[This] program will allow us to ensure those working with the very youngest of children with diverse abilities are well trained,” Pretti-Frontczak said.

Kent State’s special education program offers teaching licenses in many different tracks. These range from deaf education to early childhood special education, Harjusola-Webb said; however, this program will concentrate solely on early intervention, which is experiencing a shortage in the field.

“It’s really for infants and toddlers and their families from birth to three,” Harjusola-Webb said.

The program will put a heavy emphasis on working with infants and toddlers who have disabilities or may be at risk for disabilities in their natural environment.

To apply for the program, students must have an existing degree in a related area.

“I think people who might be good matches for the program come from human development background,” Harjusola-Webb said. “I think that might be a nice complement. [That’s] not to say nursing wouldn’t be a good match as well.”

If interested in the program, students can email either Harjusola-Webb or Pretti-Frontczak. The student will then receive a survey, which includes essays.

“We’re trying to get a sense of people’s level of compassion for the field, background, as well as where they want to go with their life,” Harjusola-Webb said.

After the survey results, a certain number of students will be chosen for an interview. Then, a select number of students will begin the graduate program application process.

Six students who are chosen for the program will take classes full time for one year. They will receive full tuition coverage, a monthly stipend of $1,000 and an iPad.

However, the benefits don’t come without a catch. Students are obligated to a two-year service within the early intervention specialist field, Harjusola-Webb said.

“Our intent is for the training program to serve as a model statewide,” Pretti-Frontczak said, “and eventually on a national level in terms of how to best prepare early intervention specialists.”

Harjusola-Webb and Pretti-Frontczak will be accepting applications until May 1, 2013.

Contact Ashley Gerenday at [email protected].