Grant to assist students with disabilities

Marshall University has received a five-year grant totaling more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The grant is for a program that will develop qualified special educators and mental health providers to assist students with disabilities that may have been caused by prenatal substance exposure, complex traumatic stress, adverse childhood experiences and/or adverse community environments.

Dr. Lanai Jennings, assistant professor and director of the school psychology program at Marshall, said that the program, called “PREPaRED to CARE” will give evidence-based training to graduate students who will receive a master’s or specialist degree in special education, school counseling or school psychology. She is leading a team of interdisciplinary faculty from the school psychology, psychology, special education and counseling areas, including Dr. Debra Lockwood, Dr. Carol Smith, Dr. Conrae-Lucas Adkins, Dr. Jennifer McFarland-Whisman, Dr. Sandra Stroebel, Dr. Jonathan Lent, Dr. Jennifer Tiano, and Dr. Marianna Footo-Linz. Amy Saunders represents the Marshall University Center of Excellence for Recovery.

Other key community partners for this grant initiative include West Virginia Parent Training and Information Inc., the West Virginia Advisory Council for the Education of Exceptional Children, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the West Virginia Department of Education, nine local educational agencies and the West Virginia School Psychologists Association.

The students in the program will initially participate in one shared course on violence, loss, and trauma; the National Association of School Psychologists’ PREPaRE crisis prevention and intervention curriculum; and Child Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) training. After that, the students will participate in intensive training and supervision in Teacher-Child Interaction Training by a certified trainer. They will learn to reinforce behavior through praising, reflecting, imitating, describing and enjoying, while providing effective command statements. They will avoid critical comments and minimize questioning. Increased pro-social and pro-academic behaviors are anticipated among elementary school students with associated declines in disruptive behavior.

Nearly 70% of grant is allocated for student tuition waivers. Current and prospective graduate students who would like to be considered for the program should contact Jennings by e-mail at