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Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities

UNC School of Social Work students are eligible to participate in LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities), an interdisciplinary program at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD).

LEND trainees participate in at least 300 hours of training to develop advanced leadership skills in interdisciplinary practice, cultural and linguistic competency, and family-centered care. This is a two-semester commitment that offers a stipend for the academic year, with a proportional tuition and health insurance benefit. The stipend amount is contingent on the level of grant funding available for the year.


Criteria for Applying

  • Social work students who want to apply for LEND should meet the following criteria:
  • Be a rising final-year MSW student or an Advanced Standing MSW student at UNC School of Social Work
  • Have a desire to specialize in social work serving intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in either a direct practice or macro practice setting
  • Have volunteer or paid work experience working with individuals with I/DD or ASD and their families
  • Be willing to complete a field placement in a setting that serves I/DD and/or ASD populations and their families
  • Have a strong GPA
  • Be willing to complete all LEND training requirements

The application process requires a resume, two letters of recommendation, and an interview with LEND faculty and the Family Support Program director. Applications are due in May for the following academic year. Students selected to participate in LEND are notified in June.


Core Components

Each LEND participant develops an Individualized Training & Assessment Plan (ITAP) with guidance from a mentor in the participant’s discipline. The ITAP includes a combination of these core components:

  • Leadership in Action Consortium
  • LEND Core Course: “Developmental Disabilities across the Lifespan” (fall and spring semesters)
  • Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series
  • Mentored project and presentation for LEND Research Symposium in April
  • Community and/or family experiences
  • Interdisciplinary clinical experiences

The Leadership in Action Consortium is a one-year interdisciplinary training program that includes team assignments, didactic sessions, small group discussions, direct skill practice, and online training modules. Students learn about personal leadership style, conflict resolution, managing difficult conversations, collaborations between families and clinical professionals, implicit biases, and cultural competency. They develop leadership skills, knowledge, and values necessary to work with and on behalf of persons with disabilities.

The two-semester course “Developmental Disabilities across the Lifespan” uses a problem-based learning format to explore cases and challenges related to direct care services, population services, and health care infrastructure affecting individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families. (This course is not limited to LEND participants.)

Speakers from CIDD and other agencies offer the Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series for LEND participants. Topics are related to autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

LEND participants are required to complete a mentored research project appropriate to their level of skill and interest, with guidance from their mentor. Each participant presents a formal project description and update as part of the LEND Research Symposium.

Each LEND participant is required to complete at least one community or family experience, selected from a list of approved experiences provided to all participants.

Interdisciplinary experiences help LEND participants learn to apply discipline-specific skills in an interdisciplinary environment. Opportunities are available in interdisciplinary care, specialty assessment clinics, and therapeutic interventions for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. CIDD offers opportunities in 12 interdisciplinary clinics and five interdisciplinary group clinics (including social skills groups, PEERS, Chill Skills, and more). Other training opportunities may be available through hospital-based clinics, school-based programs, and other providers.


Optional Components

LEND participants may choose to complete a Developmental Disabilities Certificate Program. This serves as an academic “minor” and includes a formal certificate that recognizes specialized competencies in I/DD. To complete the certificate program, a student must complete specific interdisciplinary coursework (9 credits), attend relevant approved seminars, and conduct research activities related to I/DD. These requirements must be fulfilled before the student completes the MSW degree.

A research seminar, conducted as a discussion group, is available for LEND participants who have a strong interest in research. The discussion group meets every other week and explores reading research articles, developing abstracts/posters/papers, and writing grants.


LEND Field Placements

Social work students who participate in LEND and choose Direct Practice (DP) as their concentration must complete their concentration field placement at CIDD. All LEND activities count as part of the student’s field placement.

Social work students who participate in LEND and choose Community, Management, and Policy Practice (CMPP) as their concentration may split their placements into two parts, with a DP placement at CIDD on Thursdays and a CMPP placement at another field site on two other days each week. This approach requires the approval of both the Field Education Office and the student’s CMPP field site. However, this approach is not required — a social work student may participate in LEND while keeping a full CMPP placement.



Laurel Powell 

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