Kentucky LEND

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.


Our Goals:

  • 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.


Meet Our Trainees


Gabriella Martin

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. 



Tanya Torp

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.



Shelby Johnson

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.



Kaitlin O’Neill

My name is Kaitlin 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 am currently completing requirements to obtain certification as a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). 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.



August Tuggle

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! 



Hannah Mitchell

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. 



Stephanie Battistini

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.



Morgan Turner

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.



Nathan French

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.