The Human Development Institute (HDI), Kentucky’s University Center on Disability, is administrator for a five-year Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau in partnership with the University of Louisville and Eastern Kentucky University. The Kentucky LEND Program is part of a national network of LEND programs. LEND programs share the same overall mission of improving the health of infants, children and adolescents with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities including autism. A major focus of LEND is to increase the number of professionals with the knowledge and skills to provide evidence-based screening and diagnosis as well as supports to individuals and families.
- Provide a unique training experience for interdisciplinary students with an emphasis on persons with multiple identities, their mental health, and the perspectives of self-advocates;
- Increase the clinical expertise and leadership skills of practicing Kentucky professionals and families; and
- Increase collaboration with universities, agencies, and statewide health and employment initiatives across Kentucky that train students and professionals to serve children and youth with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Who We Are
- UK-HDI faculty Bev Harp and Stephanie Meredith; and technology staff Brandon Cannada
- UK College of Education faculty Dr. Melinda Ault
- UK HealthCare faculty Dr. Marisa Toomey and Angela Folczyk
- UK College of Health Sciences faculty Dr. Susan Effgen, Dr. Joneen Lowman, Dr. Janine Schmedding-Bartley, and Dr. Elise Kearns,
- EKU faculty Dr. Myra Beth Bundy
- U of L faculty Dr. Greg Barnes and Dr. Scott Tomchek
More information on LENDS:
Expectations of Trainees
- Commit for the upcoming academic year (Fall, 2022- Spring, 2023).
- Participate in weekly seminars on Fridays, from 10a – 1p (offered via video conference and face to face). Graduate students will enroll in required courses.
- Spend an average of 12 hours a week on leadership, clinical and field experiences.
- Have monthly meetings with faculty mentor.
- Complete all program requirements.
I am a third-year student in the University of Kentucky’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. I first became interested in neurodevelopmental disabilities and working with children through frequent volunteering at Down Syndrome of Louisville in my hometown. I hope to one day work with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities to maximize physical functioning and improve quality of life; and am particularly interested in advocacy and accessibility issues children may face as they transition into adulthood living with lifelong disabilities.
At 36 years old I was given the privilege of going to long term treatment for alcoholism. I was diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, during the 16 months I was there. The coping skills they suggested actually worked and provided relief.
I applied to be a LEND trainee to let everyone know that we have worth, it is innate, and does not need to be earned or proven. I want everyone to know that people like me can recover. That we can all live our best lives- with the right support.
As part of my practicum, I will be creating a Neurodivergent friendly 12-step program for all fellow Neurodivergent addicts & alcoholics who have not been able to find recovery in traditional 12 step fellowship
It is my pleasure and privilege to be a part of the 2023 LEND fellowship
Aisha J. Omar
I am a doctoral student in Spalding University’s Educational Leadership Program. I received my master’s degree from Auburn University in Justice and Public Safety, and bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University in Political Science/Sociology. Being an advocate for my son with autism sparked my interest in the LEND program. I have been able to experience and grow from my involvements with The Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies, the Kentucky Advisory Council on Autism, the Kentucky Partnership in Policymaking program, as well as other organizations and conferences. I am interested in transition services from secondary school into adulthood, competitive integrated employment, and particularly in employment solutions for African Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
I am in my fourth year of Eastern Kentucky University’s Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program working towards becoming a licensed psychologist. Additionally, I am a Temporary Licensed Psychological Associate for the state of Kentucky and conduct assessment and therapy services at a private practice in Lexington, Kentucky. I have a passion for working with neurodiverse individuals and have extensive history in conducting neurodevelopmental disability evaluations, particularly that of the autism spectrum. I look forward to increasing my knowledge in multidisciplinary facets of neurodevelopmental disabilities and integrating it into my clinical practice.
My love for working with neurodiverse individuals across the lifespan developed during my early years as a physiotherapist in a long-term inpatient rehabilitation clinic as well as in an outpatient pediatric clinic in Germany. I lived and breathed neurological physical therapy rehabilitation for nearly a decade before I paused my career to raise a family. Nearly 20 years later, I am making a career shift: while keeping my love for neurology as my focus, I am currently adding an occupational therapy lens to my previous professional experiences with which to serve neurodiverse individuals and their families. I am finishing my master’s degree in occupational therapy at Eastern Kentucky University and intend on completing a post-professional doctorate thereafter. I’m excited to be a trainee for the LEND program!
I am a second-year graduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of Kentucky. I recently completed my first clinical rotation at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center, working on the brain injury unit with adults and children. I have a strong interest in providing assistive technology and augmentative communication solutions for increased learning and independence when working with all populations/individuals. I look forward to sharing ideas and gaining new perspectives from my colleagues in the LEND program.
My name is Anna Sweets and I am from Bowling Green, Kentucky. I am a graduate student at Western Kentucky University studying Speech-Language Pathology. While at WKU, I became involved in the Big Red Marching Band and served as a College of Health and Human Services Student Ambassador for four years. My interest in communication disorders and advocacy began with my younger twin sisters when they were diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. I look forward to working with individuals with disabilities and their families on improving daily life skills and self-advocacy!
I am a second-year Speech-Language Pathology graduate student at the University of Kentucky. I have had a passion for working with children and adults with neurodevelopmental and other disabilities throughout my life. With personal experiences with speech therapy and neurodiverse individuals, I am excited to continue to learn and serve others as a future clinician.
José Luis Gonzalez
I am a first generation Mexican-American and college graduate. I am currently finishing my Doctorate in Occupational Therapy at Eastern Kentucky University. I hope to be working with the pediatric population once I have completed my work and passed my boards. My goal is to open my own pediatric clinic that is accessible and inclusive by providing various forms of services. I hope to use the LEND Program as a steppingstone to that goal, while incorporating aspects into the clinic.
I am a second-year doctoral student and board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) at the University of Kentucky (UK) in the college of education studying special education with a focus in moderate to severe disabilities and interdisciplinary early childhood education. After earning my master’s degree in applied behavior analysis (ABA) from UK in 2020, I worked as a clinical supervisor and BCBA at a clinic providing ABA therapy to individuals with autism and other disabilities. I was able to serve clients with a variety of diagnoses and across a wide age range through commercially funded insurance and state waiver programs. Throughout my doctoral program and career, I hope to continue finding opportunities to collaborate with other professions and community members to serve children with disabilities and their stakeholders.
Hope Leet Dittmeier
My interest in the LEND program is a result of my wonderful grandson, Axl, who was diagnosed with autism early in 2022 at three years of age. I have worked in the developmental disabilities field for over 40 years – it’s really all I have ever done! I currently serve as the Executive Director of Mattingly Edge, a non-profit organization serving the Louisville community.
I am a second-year doctoral student in the Special Education program at the University of Kentucky with an emphasis in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (IECE). I have my Master of Education in IECE from the University of Kentucky, my Rank II certification in IECE, and a master’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies.
I am a third year graduate student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Kentucky. My initial interest in physical therapy began with shadowing an Early Intervention physical therapist in high school and my interest in pediatrics has continued throughout my education. Since middle school, it has been a goal of mine to help people who are a part of this population function to their fullest capacity, as children and as they transition into adults.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Drummond
USAF (retired), is a research assistant for the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Human Development Institute. He is presently pursuing a PhD in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion. Jon’s primary research interest is the therapeutic value of sequenced physical activity (martial arts, dance, climbing, etc.) for those with neurodevelopmental and other disabilities, both directly and likely as mediated by improvements in executive function.
Micah Peace Urquilla
I am a 28-year-old Queer, Autistic, and multiply Disabled self-advocate. I have had the good fortune to experience working and learning in a wide range of sites around the Disability Community on the local, state, and national levels, including Louisville’s Center for Accessible Living, Friends School of Louisville, the Kentucky Advisory Council on Autism, Showing up for Racial Justice, and others.
I am a doctoral student in Eastern Kentucky University’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program with a focus on Special Education. In addition, I am currently completing requirements to obtain certification as a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). I hold a master’s degree from Roosevelt University in Teacher Leadership and Special Education and hold Illinois Highly Qualified Certification in Secondary Education for grades 6-12 in English, Math, Social Sciences, and Special Education in Illinois. I have taught children with ASD both at the middle school and high school levels.
I am a fourth year student in Eastern Kentucky University’s Doctor of Psychology program. I am also enrolled in classes and accruing hours to sit for the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst examination. I am working towards becoming a Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Behavior Analyst. I currently provide supervised services through the EKU Psychology Clinic, as well as a local private practice.
I am a third-year graduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of Kentucky. I recently completed my first clinical rotation at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, working in both adult acute care and outpatient rehab settings in Louisville. I want to be an advocate and therapist in children’s lives and enable them to reach their highest potential.
I am currently a third-year student in the University of Kentucky’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. My interest in working with children and adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities stems from years living alongside an aunt with Down Syndrome, where I was able to witness some of the challenges of life with a disability as well as life as a caregiver. Since middle school, it has been a goal of mine to help people who are a part of this population function to their fullest capacity, as children and also as they transition into adulthood.
My name is Gabby, and I am a fourth year in EKU’s Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program working towards my goal of becoming a Licensed Psychologist. I have my Master’s in Clinical Psychology, am a Temporary Licensed Psychological Associate for the state of Kentucky, and I currently provide therapeutic and assessment services. I have an extensive history working with individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, particularly those with a diagnosis of ASD. Personally, I have a passion for conducting neuropsychological assessments with medically complex individuals who have or are suspected of having ASD or related neurodevelopmental disorders. I am so excited to expand my knowledge and clinical skillset with LEND while continuing to serve our communities here in the Bluegrass.
My name is Tanya Torp. I am an agent for social change and have spent my career engaging in community-based initiatives as convener, speaker, trainer, facilitator, writer, and consultant. My full-time job as Executive Director at Step By Step, Inc. encourages and equips young single mothers, ages 12-24, through an empowerment model which includes mentoring, deep listening, case management, Support Groups, leadership development, and walking alongside them towards their own definitions of success. Additionally, I am Associate Pastor at Embrace United Methodist Church working in the areas of discipleship, leadership development, and women’s ministry.
I am a keynote speaker and workshop leader in the following topics: strategic planning for non-profits, diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, volunteer management, community liaison, and radical hospitality. I live in Lexington, Kentucky with my husband and sons, a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old. I am an advocate for my sons who are precocious, funny, full of life and also received diagnoses including sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and reactive attachment disorder.
My name is Shelby Johnson. I am a second-year graduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of KY. I recently completed a clinical rotation at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital working on the Traumatic Brain Injury Unit with adults. I have also had rotations at the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass working with pediatrics, and at the Multidisciplinary Autism Assessment Clinic (MAAC) working as part of an interdisciplinary team assessing and diagnosing autism. As a part of the LEND program, I hope to expand my knowledge of best practices with my future clients with autism.
My name is Kai O’Neill. I am a second-year doctoral student in the University of Kentucky’s Special Education Leadership Personnel Preparation Program and current LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) trainee. I have a master’s degree in Special Education for Moderate and Severe Disabilities from the University of Kentucky and hold a Rank 2 Kentucky Educator License Teaching Certification for Teaching Exceptional Children, Moderate and Severe Disabilities, grades primary through twelve. I also have experience providing community-living support to adolescents with autism and their families.
My primary area of research involves improving the efficiency of established, effective, evidence-based systematic instructional procedures for teaching students with moderate to severe disabilities; this research involves determining whether different procedural variations in implementation yield differential efficiency measures (e.g., percentage of student errors, amount of sessions to reach mastery, amount of instructional time, extent of generalization, extent of maintenance). I am also the project manager of a research team focused on improving methods for teaching adolescents with moderate intellectual disabilities how to self-instruct using mobile technology (e.g., smart phones) instead of relying on adult prompts when faced with unknown tasks. I plan to teach at the university level when finished with my degree.
My name is August Tuggle. I am a first-year student in the music therapy equivalency plus master’s program as well as a first-year student in the developmental disabilities certificate at University of Kentucky. I am interested in working with adolescents, young adults, and adults with developmental disabilities. My current research interests are very broad, and involve exploring best music therapy practices for helping young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder transition from school to the next phase of their life. I am legally blind, and while this is a sensory disability rather than a developmental disability, I feel that my experiences have led me to this career path. I am really looking forward to learning more about how to best serve individuals with developmental disabilities through this program!
My name is Hannah Mitchell. I am a 3rd year graduate student in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at the University of Kentucky. I have always had a special interest in pediatrics since I began teaching swim lessons in high school to children in various age groups. Through this experience, I was able to work with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and became motivated to discover how I could better serve those in my professional and personal life. One of my goals with being a part of the inaugural LEND trainee cohort is to play a role in an interprofessional team to improve healthcare for this specific population. I am passionate about gaining resources and knowledge that will allow me to assist those with neurodevelopmental disabilities to reach their goals. Although I have a special interest in pediatrics, I hope to gather a well-rounded understanding of how to being an advocate for people across the entire lifespan.
My name is Stephanie Battistini. I am the 3rd year Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics fellow at the University of Louisville and a LEND trainee. I am originally from Florida. Prior to moving to Louisville for my fellowship, I completed all my undergraduate and graduate work in Florida. I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Molecular Biology with a minor in Health Services Administration. I then completed a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences from Florida State University. I obtained my Medical Degree from Florida State University in May 2015. I completed my pediatric residency training with the University of Florida in Pensacola, Florida in June 2018. I was then selected and completed a Chief Resident year in Pensacola and moved to Louisville in July 2019 to start my fellowship.
My current research focus is a quality improvement project with the goal of improving general pediatricians’ knowledge about the risks of wandering and elopement in children with autism spectrum disorder. I have an overall interest in resident education/educating in general. I will complete my fellowship training in July 2022. My inspiration comes from witnessing the differences in services and therapies received between 2 of my cousins, who have disabilities: one having an involved medical team with appropriate resources, whereas the other did not. I want to expand my leadership skills and knowledge so I can be another advocate for children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders.
My name is Morgan Turner. I’m a Program Education Assistant at the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky. I am a strong self-advocate. I have both cognitive and physical disabilities. I am an influential leader, expert peer educator, and the host of Morgan’s Musings, a video series dedicated to supporting individuals become leaders and self-advocates in their own unique ways. I work full-time across multiple HDI projects focused on health, advocacy, leadership, and inclusive higher education and employment for people with disabilities. I have co-facilitated several inclusive health promotion programs and over 75 trainings on Universal Design in health and disability inclusion for professionals, self-advocates, and community members. I am a graduate of Tates Creek High School, an athlete, and an athlete ambassador with Special Olympics. I was invited to participate in the national Special Olympics Inclusive Health Work Group. In recognition of my hard work and leadership, I was recently appointed to Kentucky’s Employment First Council by Governor Beshear.
My name is Nathan French. I am pursuing a Master’s in Social Work while taking the LEND program in order to gain more background and skills in order to enact cultural and policy changes for the betterment of the disability community. I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neuromuscular disease that causes me to use a cochlear implant and a wheelchair while also being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a result, my interest and research lend to my interests in equal marriage (such as repealing the income limit), attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ disabled members, education, and accessibility being widened to include persons with ASD/DD.