baby playing with blocks

UK expands training to help substance-exposed children

Educators from the University of KY are providing a unique service to address a desperate need- training students to work with babies born substance exposed.

The team of educators includes Dr. Jennifer Grisham and Dr. Sarah Hawkins-Lear from UK’s Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (IECE); Dr. Joneen Lowman and Dr. Judith Page from Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), and Dr. Caroline Gooden from the Human Development Institute (HDI). They have been awarded funding from the US Department of Education to provide training for IECE teachers and speech pathologists to work across disciplines with babies who are born substance exposed. The project is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Training for Interdisciplinary Professionals (NASTIPS).  NASTIPS will train IECE and CSD graduate students to provide high quality interdisciplinary interventions to children born substance-exposed; that is, children whose mothers used substances such as illicit drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.

“We have lots of babies in Kentucky who are born substance exposed as a result of the opioid epidemic,” Gooden said, adding that opioids join alcohol as a common cause of substance exposure in children. “It’s a huge epidemic, and most of our teachers aren’t trained to recognize it or to know what to do with it.”

Substance exposure is a multifaceted situation, and it will take many different approaches to help these children and their families.

NASTIPS builds on a prior HDI training program called Project SCOPE (Supporting Children of the Opioid Epidemic) that used telehealth sessions to help providers across disciplines work with children who are born substance exposed and their families.

“We recognize that we need to have an interdisciplinary approach to work with this population,” Gooden said. “It’s not a single-symptom kind of situation. We have babies who need services, families who need services, and doctors who seek training in substance abuse treatment methods. It’s a complex network of services that we need to build.”

There are other agencies in KY that are working to create supports to help this population, and Gooden says the work they’re doing is critically needed and are partners in this effort. This project addresses an unmet need for IECE teacher and speech/language pathologist (SLP) training that has not been provided to date.  

“We’re excited because there is no such training program in Kentucky…We’re excited about this because it brings an educational component to programs in KY that are desperately needed,” Gooden said, adding that  “most of our teachers and SLPs aren’t trained to recognize neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) or to support children with NAS, which is what this project will provide.”

To that end, the project will train two cohorts of eight students each for two years of study, serving a total of 16 students over four years, to use high quality practices with these children and their families.  

“These teachers and speech therapists will effectively know how to work with the children on their caseloads and will be able to assist other teachers and SLPs in their agencies across the state,” Gooden said.

She stressed that for this project, the focus isn’t only on teaching the children; also, families are a key part of their children’s success. The program will take a holistic approach, helping its students work with the whole family.

“In most early childhood settings, you have lots of involvement with families, which is wonderful,” Gooden said. “One thing we can’t stress enough is that as an IECE teacher or SLP, we need to be really accepting of where our families are. They might be in recovery; they might be struggling to get in recovery and to get the services they need as a family. They need our support and not our judgment.” Gooden stressed that as important as it is to recognize and address the effects of substance exposure in children, it is just as important to treat these children and their families with compassion.  “We need to be nonjudgmental and serve these children where they are, as well as their families. Families with substance use disorder suffer from lots of stigma, which can be a barrier to their treatment and recovery,” she said. “We want to address the whole family’s needs and the whole child’s needs.”

Woman getting a bandage after shot

Southeast SuperHub Champions working to increase vaccine confidence 

Led by the Human Development Institute in partnership with Georgia State University, a coalition of advocates and community partners have taken on the important task of promoting vaccine confidence in the Southeast US. The COVID-19 Vaccine Information and Dissemination SuperHub for the Southeast region was organized with the goal to Increase vaccine access and uptake among the disability population in southeast region. As new variants of COVID-19 emerge, continuing the vaccine conversation is more important than ever.  

Barriers to vaccine uptake include hesitancy and access. Organizers of the Southeast SuperHub determined that members of the disability community can be the catalyst to increase the rate of vaccination among disabled people. Local Trusted Champions are in their communities discussing vaccine resources with those in their immediate circles in person and online. They are assisting with vaccine outreach and the dissemination of plain language resources developed by the Human Development Institute and Georgia State University. By having one-on-one conversations, Champions are helping to quell fears of the vaccine and answer questions with a personal approach. They are leveraging their status as trusted members of their communities to tailor the messaging to a local context.  

Champions are also breaking down barriers in vaccine access. The plain language resources disseminated by Local Trusted Champions are available in multiple languages, which are important as many members of the disability do not speak English as their first language. Additionally, champions have identified ways in which vaccine sites may not be accessible to wheelchair users, those who are deaf and hard of hearing, or who have limited vision.  

Local Trusted Champions are compensated for their efforts by a stipend and are asked to complete a Local Champion 101 training, as well as a course on Motivational Interviewing. They are also expected to track their data and report back to the SuperHub during monthly meetings. Recruitment of Local Champions is ongoing, and though the project will conclude on September 30, Champions’ efforts will make a lasting impact. 

For more information, contact

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Project SCOPE Online Training Series

The UK Human Development Institute Project SCOPE online training series (nine sessions) is for early care staff who work directly with young children who have neonatal abstinence syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or are affected by substance abuse, and their families. Providers from child care, Head Start, preschool, home visiting, and related programs are encouraged to register for this interactive series that will be held on alternate Tuesdays, from August 24 through November 30, 2021, at 3:30-5pm ET. Each session is interactive and engaging, and includes a speaker, presentation of a related challenge from one of the participants, and small group discussion of possible strategies.

Register at this link now! Contact Dr. Caroline Gooden at for more information.

Caroline Gooden Staff Photo

HDI Program Administrator to serve as Co-Investigator for IMLS National Libraries Leadership Award

Dr. Caroline Gooden, Disability Program Administrator at the UK Human Development Institute, will serve as a Co-Investigator for the “Services for Children of All Abilities in Libraries: An Exploration (SCALE) project”. She will collect and analyze state-wide child data to measure child progress; consult with and coach local, state, and national staff that serve young children with disabilities, and conduct focus groups to guide technical assistance.

Dr. Maria Cahill, Associate Professor at UK’s School of Information Sciences in the College of Communication and Information and the Department of Educational Leadership Studies in the College of Education, will serve as Principal Investigator for the project which will research the value of libraries as community resources for young children with disabilities and developmental delays.

The research team will consist of six researchers representing the University of Kentucky, University of Missouri and Emporia State University. They will partner with state education and library agencies in their respective states to investigate the effectiveness of library services, practices, and behaviors for serving children with disabilities and/or developmental delays from infancy to five years old. The team will also develop webinars and instructional materials that address program management, engagement strategies, and tools that enable librarians to tailor programs and services that better meet the needs of this community.

Anticipated outcomes include increased public library programming; improved public library outreach to preschools serving children with disabilities and developmental delays; and increased awareness among families, caregivers, and service providers of educational and social opportunities available through public libraries.

Contact for more information.

Child reading a book with teacher.

Latest Fund for Excellence Awards: August 2019

The Human Development Institute (HDI) established the Fund for Excellence for the development of innovative programs, services or products to address the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, for which funding is not currently available. In the July, 2019 funding cycle, HDI awarded three Fund for Excellence projects:

  • Universally Designed Health Coaching Pilot with Danielle Augustin, Lindsey Mullis, and Morgan Turner
  • You Can Do So Many Things project with Caroline Gooden, Kathy Sheppard-Jones, and Brittany Granville
  • Disability in Public Health Training with Tony Lobianco and Donald Lollar

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