MUSC has been awarded a five-year, $2.8 million grant to create a statewide program called South Carolina Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (SC LEND).
This is the first LEND award for South Carolina, and is unique because it involves three training sites in order to link the state. The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Maternal and Child Health).
Available South Carolina statistics (2006) suggest that 8.6 per 1,000 children are identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this state, boys are 4.5 times more likely to have an ASD than girls, translating to 1 in 70 boys in the state who have an ASD. Despite better awareness, the average age of ASD diagnosis is about 4-years-old in South Carolina, which is beyond the age of early intervention programs.
SC LEND is a partnership between MUSC, the University of South Carolina (USC) and Greenville Hospital System (GHS) that aims to establish a statewide interdisciplinary training program to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with ASD and neurodevelopmental disorders (ND). The grant allows for more than 20 faculty members from the institutions to provide training to practitioners who serve children with autism spectrum disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders.
The program is a year-long, intense schedule of clinical, classroom research and leadership training. The idea is to bring the level of skill and competence up across the state in caring for these children.
"Nationwide, the numbers of children with ASDs and other developmental disabilities are on the rise. Estimates show a 57 percent increase in the prevalence of autism, and the CDC estimates that up to 17 percent of children have special needs," said Michelle Macias, M.D., pediatrics professor in the MUSC Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics and the principal investigator for the grant.
"One of the biggest problems is the dire lack of professionals to evaluate and treat children with disabilities, and that is specifically what the grant is designed to provide—including educational efforts for all health care professionals who care for children and their families."
SC LEND long-term trainees may be drawn from a range of professional disciplines including pediatrics, psychology, speech pathology, social work, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pediatric dentistry, psychiatry, neurology, genetics and special education. SC LEND also will provide technical assistance and continuing education to community agencies, providers and consumers.
With assistance from MUSC's Center for Academic Research and Computing and from the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium, many of SC LEND's activities will be widely disseminated using internet-based learning methods.
There are 43 LEND programs in 37 states nationwide, allowing for a collaborative approach to improve the care of children. In 2007, LEND programs were expanded to include the additional focus on autism and related developmental disabilities.