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Taking the Lead

The University of New Mexico Center for Development and Disability (UNM CDD) recently received a five-year award totaling $3.9 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the New Mexico Leadership in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program.

The LEND program prepares trainees from a wide variety of professional disciplines to assume leadership roles, ensure high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence, and enhances the ability of clinicians to diagnose, treat, and manage complex neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, youth and adolescents.

The New Mexico LEND program is a graduate level, year-long course focused on the development of leadership, clinical and team skills.

The program currently has graduate students from 12 different disciplines, including occupational and physical therapy, pediatrics, nutrition, social work, nursing, speech and language pathology, psychology, health administration, and special education.

"Not one discipline has all the answers when caring for a child with disabilities," said Dr. Cate McClain, director at the UNM CDD. "Families need an entire team of professionals to provide the absolute best care for their child. The LEND program is very effective in teaching this interdisciplinary approach."

The program is not just limited to health care providers and those in the health care field. Parents of children with disabilities are also in the program to share their perspective and develop their leadership skills.

"Since the focus of the LEND program is primarily on developing leaders, it’s open to all disciplines and anyone interested in being a leader and advocating for this population," said McClain. "It’s also a way to support parents of children with disabilities to be leaders and to assure the various disciplines learn the value of listening to the parent voice."

A Parent’s Perspective

Lauriann King was a parent in the LEND program a year ago. She has a 13-year-old son with autism and enrolled in the program to represent the families who have children with disabilities.

"The great thing about LEND is that it’s very family focused," said King. "Every aspect of the program focuses on how to care for the entire family."

King was able to give that parent perspective to others in the program and in turn, learned how to work with the many different disciplines.

The program also gave King the confidence she needed to take on larger leadership roles in the community and now she is one of the leaders of a program called Partners in Policymaking.

"Being in the LEND program taught me to see the bigger picture and that there are so many children and families who need help," said King. "It exposed me to all the different worlds of neurodisabilities and it made me realize we all really need to work together to help these children and families get the care they deserve."

With the Partners and Policymaking program, King is working with future advocates and hoping to develop a strong network of people who can speak to the issues and influence change.

"What I love about LEND and Partners in Policymaking is it sees people first. It shows that we all need to put people first and be compassionate and respectful of one another," said King. "If we work together as a group and advocate as a group we can be one powerful voice."

Learn more about the New Mexico LEND program.

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