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LEND Program Enjoys Banner First Year Training ASD and ND Professionals

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Michelle ballan headshot copy
Michelle Ballan

Stony Brook University’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and other related Disabilities (LEND) Center is a multidisciplinary training program designed to improve the care of those with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other neurodevelopmental disabilities (ND), and it has enjoyed a remarkable first year.

“The LEND program’s inaugural year is earmarked by inordinate success with more than 100 trainees prepared for effective interdisciplinary education, practice and policy to advance systems of care for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families,” said Michelle Ballan, LEND Center and program director, professor, and associate dean for research in the School of Social Welfare and professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine. “The program’s sustainability and growth over the next several years will lead to a network of trained autism professionals across numerous disciplines.”

“The LEND program has blossomed beyond our wildest expectations in its first year,” said Matthew Lerner, associate professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics, and LEND co-director. “We have trained well over 100 trainees across more than a dozen disciplines, including academic, professional, policy-focused, clinical, family, and self-advocacy domains. Most importantly, though, we have planted the very first seeds of an interdisciplinary community dedicated to improving the lives of those with neurodevelopmental disorders here on Long Island.”

The LEND program is open to undergraduates, graduates, post-graduates and professionals in fields related to supporting individuals with ASD/ND, as well as family members and self-advocates identifying as being part of the ASD/ND community, and prepares trainees to be leaders in their fields by advancing clinical, policy, advocacy, and research knowledge and skills necessary to affect positive change on all levels, from the individual to systems.

LEND aims to train 10 long-term trainees (LTTs), at least 80 medium-term trainees (MTTs), and at least 215 short-term trainees (STTs) per year. Enrollment is for one academic year (greater than 300 hours per year) for LTTs, (40 to 299 hours) for MTTs and (less than 40 hours) for STTs. LTTs earn a stipend for participating in LEND, while MTTs and STTs receive all training at no cost. 

Matthew Lerner
Matthew Lerner

Current participants will showcase their work at the Stony Brook LEND Research Exposition on May 9, and will graduate from the LEND program on May 23. To date, the program has trained 12 LTTs, 17 MTTs and more than 80 STTs.

Stony Brook University was the first institution on Long Island to receive a federal grant designed specifically for this training. The LEND grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and provided to the SUNY Research Foundation with Dr. Ballan as the principal investigator, is a five-year $2.2 million grant that is effective through June 2026. It is designed to provide training and resources to individuals with ASD/ND, their families and clinicians, as well as researchers and policymakers through the establishment of a regional center.

Trainees have found the program to be invaluable.

“I wanted to be involved with LEND to improve my capacity in understanding the needs and lived experiences of families of children with ASD/ND,” said Jenny Andersson, who is the director of the Family and Community Engagement Center at the Center for Community Inclusion at Long Island University and the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome. “My background is strong in the educational impact, but I had very little knowledge about the medical aspect and care. Through LEND didactics and conversations among our group, I can confidently say that I have a much deeper understanding of the needs in our community, how to support families and most importantly the individuals I serve.

“Being welcomed into the diverse LEND family with deep immersion into the meaningful LEND curriculum has grounded my education and personal journey as a lifelong learner in the sturdy principles that LEND represents at its core — understanding, empathy, equity, partnership and initiative,” said Pallavi Tatpudy, MD, a second-year psychiatry resident physician in Stony Brook’s Adult Psychiatry Residency Program. “I can confidently assert that LEND has empowered me to live out my commitment to progress and expansion so that I may be a more well-rounded, aware, introspective, collaborative, and interdisciplinary psychiatry trainee and most importantly, human being.”

Isaac Rodriguez is a first year PhD student in the Program in Public Health who is completing the LEND program, which he said has taught him how to strategically interact with clinicians from other disciplines to inform an interdisciplinary approach to caring for autistic individuals. “Additionally, LEND has allowed me to directly hear lived experiences from self-advocates and family members of autistic and other neurodiverse persons,” he said. “I learned to appreciate the heterogeneity of the family’s lived experience. No two challenging circumstances between families are the same and warrant individualized attention, promotion of self-determination, and a co-designed care plan.”

The next LEND program runs August 30, 2022 to May 30, 2023. The LTT deadline application is May 15, 2022. MTT and STT applications for 2022 will open in June. 

To apply, go to the School of Social Welfare website and follow the steps for submitting the application.


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