Skip to page content

Pathway to high-quality support for children with disabilities

  |   Kathryn Kao   |   Permalink   |   News Release,   Outreach,   Research,   Students and Faculty

The University of Georgia is paving the way for high-quality personnel to enter the workforce in support of young children with disabilities.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the Pathway Project is a five-year grant led by associate professor Rebecca Lieberman-Betz in the Mary Frances Early College of Education’s Department of Communication Sciences and Special Education.

The project, which is expecting its first cohort in fall 2024, provides training to undergraduate and graduate-level students seeking certification and endorsement in the areas of birth through kindergarten (BK) and early childhood special education (ECSE) to support young children with high-intensity needs and their families across a variety of settings.

“The skill set that we want to provide our trainees is important in helping them administer optimal services,” said Lieberman-Betz. “We want to teach students as part of their training that they’re not treating the disability, they’re providing services for individual children and families, and that’s going to look very different for each child.”

Over the project’s lifespan, a total of 22 student scholars will be prepared to work in the field of special education with a focus on infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with a range of disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.

Students will not only learn how to support children with high-intensity needs, both in and out of the classroom, but they will also learn how to collaborate with families in natural environments using team-based problem-solving and evidence-based practices.

“We can think about natural environments as involving not just the location, but also the people a child would typically be interacting with,” said Lieberman-Betz. “So, thinking about what materials they’re already using at home, as well as the routines and activities they’ll typically be participating in. To do all that, students need to learn how to collaborate with parents and other caregivers.”

Students will also complete coursework in the BK/ECSE program of study and engage in applied activities such as practicums, scholar seminars, an intensive summer institute, and a collaborative capstone project.

Student scholars can enter the program through one of three possible pathways: (1) a direct pathway, resulting in a master’s degree in teaching or education in BK/ECSE; (2) a Double Dawgs pathway, resulting in a combined undergraduate and master’s degree in teaching or education in BK/ECSE; or (3) a partnership pathway, beginning during students’ undergraduate program at Spelman College in Atlanta resulting in a master’s degree in education in BK/ECSE from UGA.

Additionally, scholars will participate in an intensive summer institute to learn from multi-disciplinary faculty and engage in case-based learning. Students studying speech-language pathology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy will also attend, providing an interprofessional education experience for student scholars.

Other UGA faculty on the project include professor Cynthia Vail and clinical professor Alicia Davis, both in the Department of Communication Sciences and Special Education.

For more information on the Pathway Project, please contact Lieberman-Betz at .

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602