North Texas Daily

Master’s Program for special education training earn $1.2 million dollar grant

Master’s Program for special education training earn $1.2 million dollar grant

Master’s Program for special education training earn $1.2 million dollar grant
February 10
14:00 2023

A substantial federal grant of over $1 million was recently awarded to fund Project Communicate, a master’s program for students planning to work in the fields of special education and speech-language pathology. 

The primary goal of Project Communicate is to provide training for future teachers to work with students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder. The program will involve various methods of training, such as one-on-one mentorships and workshops.

“We are looking for applicants who are committed to helping school-age children with communication needs,” project director Miriam Boesch said. “We hope to recruit excited and enthusiastic future special education teachers and speech-language pathologists.” 

The program was started by Boesch, an associate professor of special education, and Dr. Kat Aoyama, an associate professor of audiology and speech-language pathology. The two will be in charge of the mentoring and supervision process. Student applications are open to apply for the first cohort in the project until March 1. 

“We plan to offer monthly seminar presentations for the scholars in this project,” Aoyama said. “The topics will include cultural linguistic diversity and complex communication needs in children.”

The experience will differ slightly for special education majors and speech-language pathology majors. For example, SLP majors must enroll in the program full-time and finish earlier than most special education majors who will be enrolled part-time. This makes the estimated completion time of this program’s training two years, with students being able to take either two or three courses per semester, along with the additional field experiences and summer courses.

“We believe the scholars from this program will stand out with additional training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Autism, and interdisciplinary training,” Boesch said. “The scholars from this program will also attend professional conferences and seminars. We believe they will become well-rounded professionals.”

Potential scholars interested in applying for Project Communicate must have a GPA of 3.25 or higher, or will be required to take the GRE test if they do not meet this score. 

Since the program is of no financial cost to scholars who participate, they will need to sign a pre-scholarship agreement that promises they will work at a federally defined high-needs school for two years for every year they participated in Project Communication.

The goal of this requirement is to utilize the scholar’s newfound knowledge and implement that in real-world educational settings and give them experience working with neurodivergent children in public schools in areas where at least 30 percent of households live under the poverty line.

“We think the long-term benefits of the program will be a more diverse workforce of special education teachers and speech-language pathologists,” Aoyama said. “We plan to recruit students from underrepresented groups.”

The program will admit 17 special education scholars and only five SLP scholars for the first two cohorts. Cohort one will start in Fall 2023, cohort two in Fall 2025 and a smaller cohort three will only accept three special education majors in Fall 2026. Aoyama and Boesch plan for admissions to be finished by the month of April, although late applications may be accepted if all spots aren’t filled by mid-spring.

“I think this program is amazing, and I love the focus on inclusion and less restrictive environments,” said Marianna de León, Leaders in Family Education social media coordinator and human development and family science junior. “The benefits the program offers to its students could be life-changing to a student who may not be able to afford this program otherwise.”

Featured Image The Speech & Hearing Center is located on Sycamore Street on Oct. 30, 2022. Photo by Ismael Belkoura

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Celie Price

Celie Price

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