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Research News at Vanderbilt

Kennedy Center for Excellence lands five-year renewal grant

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The Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has awarded a five-year, $2.7 million grant to continue the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC).

The VKC UCEDD works to improve support and services in Tennessee for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, especially those of ethnic or linguistic minorities and those in high-poverty rural Tennessee and Mid-South states.

The VKC UCEDD focuses on education and early intervention, employment, health and quality of life.

“These emphases reflect Tennessee needs identified by the UCEDD Community Advisory Committee and the needs assessment conducted,” said its chair John Shouse. “The disability community in Tennessee has a strong voice for change through the VKC UCEDD. With the great news of the renewal, we will be able to continue to work together for the full inclusion of our citizens with disabilities.”

The VKC UCEDD sponsors or is affiliated with 42 training, service and research programs, and disseminates evidence-based information for a variety of audiences.

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D.

“I’m so proud of the accomplishments of our UCEDD faculty, staff and trainees who have made great progress in supporting individuals with disabilities and their families and in strengthening and creating collaborations to move Tennessee’s service system forward,” said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., VKC director, UCEDD co-director and Annette Schaffer Eskind Professor.

“Health is a major area of emphasis, since research shows health care disparities among adults with developmental disabilities,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., VKC UCEDD co-director and senior associate in Psychiatry.

Elise McMillan, J.D.

“A year ago we completed an electronic toolkit for primary care providers, which has been downloaded extensively by health care providers. Now we’re partnering with TennCare and the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to provide training to physicians in use of the tool kit for CME credit, as well as training for families. This exemplifies the strength of the UCEDD, and the ways that we partner with State and community organizations to improve systems of care and supports.”

In the area of employment, McMillan emphasized the accomplishments of TennesseeWorks, a statewide systems change project supported by the UCEDD that focuses on prioritizing employment as the first and preferred option for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Training in the UCEDD is diverse, from pre-professionals to a wide variety of professionals,” McMillan said. “It ranges from TRIAD’s autism-related training of Tennessee educators in collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Education, to the Britt Henderson Training Series for Educators focused most recently on planning for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they transition from secondary education, to advocacy training for parents of youth with autism — a research-based intervention. This constant blending of service, training, research and dissemination is a UCEDD hallmark,” McMillan said.

The VKC UCEDD is part of the national network of 67 UCEDDs. In Tennessee the VKC UCEDD partners with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, the University of Tennessee Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities and Disability Rights Tennessee, as well as more than 25 community, state and regional disability organizations who work together to develop innovative responses to state needs.

Media Inquiries:
Jan Rosemergy, (615) 322-8238
jan.rosemergy@Vanderbilt.Edu