The Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (GaLEND) Audiology program is working to increase the number of pediatric audiologists with clinical skills, leadership skills and expertise in delivering care to deaf or hard of hearing children and children with autism or other developmental disability. The program helps professionals build interdisciplinary skills to better serve children with hearing loss and their families.
Approximately 1% of Georgia’s children are deaf or hard of hearing. In Georgia, 5.5% of caregivers did not receive needed healthcare, and 13.3% indicated that their DHH child went without hearing services. There is a shortage of trained pediatric audiologists and audiologist assistants in the state to meet the needs of infants and young children with hearing loss.
The GaLEND Audiology Program is housed within the Center for Leadership in Disability in the GSU School of Public Health. It has partnered with the Pediatric Audiology program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the University of Georgia to recruit graduate-level audiology doctoral candidates as GaLEND pediatric audiology trainees. In addition, it uses resources available through the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders to recruit potential applicants from underrepresented racial and ethnic communities. GaLEND recruits and trains two pediatric audiology trainees each year.
The audiology lead faculty member is Dr. Akilah Heggs Lee, clinical assistant professor in the GSU Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “Audiologists and audiology students in their final year of training get specialized content around pediatric audiology and learn about the system of care, particularly in Georgia, to support infants and young children with hearing loss and their families. The GaLEND Audiology program also allows them to interact with other disciplines to enhance their ability to respond to this population’s needs,” said Dr. Heggs Lee. "The goal is that you know these pediatric audiology trainees participating in the program will stay in Georgia and become qualified professionals here. The long-term outcome is increasing access to competent and culturally appropriate audiology services for children with hearing loss.”
Children’s and UGA are currently approved as Doctor of Audiology externship sites, where students complete full-time clinical externships and receive most of their clinical experience. GaLEND incorporates interdisciplinary clinical opportunities at Children’s in the neurodevelopmental clinics and through the District Early Hearing Detection and Intervention hearing clinics in Fulton and conduct outreach activities at the GSU Speech and Hearing Clinic’s Clarkston site.
The family engagement experience is an essential part of the training process. Audiology trainees are assigned to work with a family member of DHH children and adults during their training. In addition, trainees work with organizational partners in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to learn from families about their lived experiences navigating the EHDI system. These experiences promote an understanding of family and community issues.
"As we begin our third-year training audiology students in LEND with the support of the audiology supplement through the Maternal Child Health Bureau, we are pleased to be able to engage emerging-leader audiologists who are better equipped to hear and respond to the unique needs of children and families who live with hearing loss and autism," said Mark Crenshaw, GaLEND's Director of Interdisciplinary Training. "We are also thrilled with the range of opportunities this funding creates to support practicing audiologists better to meet the needs of this population of patients."
GaLEND provides targeted continuing education and professional development activities contributing to improved systems of care for underserved communities, with a focus on improving services and supports for children with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families. In addition to learning how to improve their clinical practice, trainees will understand systems of care and social determinants of health for children who are DHH.
In addition to its partnerships with Children’s and UGA, the GaLEND Audiology Program collaborates with the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Morehouse School of Medicine, and the Emory University Center of Excellence in MCH Education.
Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (GaLEND) is a one-year interdisciplinary training experience that prepares tomorrow’s leaders to provide coordinated, culturally competent, and family-centered care to children and their families. LEND programs operate within a university system, usually as part of a University Center for Excellence (UCEDD) or other larger entity. The GaLEND program is administered by the Center for Leadership in Disability in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
School of Public Health
Center for Leadership in Disability