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  December 10, 2001

Partnership Across Disciplines to
Benefit People with Disabilities

The Health Center and the Neag School of Education have joined forces to help people with disabilities through research, education, and training.

Together, they have reorganized the A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service and made it a partnership involving all the schools of the University in its work.

"We're actively working with all the schools - education, family studies, social work, nursing, allied health, medicine, and dental medicine - to make the center more visible throughout the University and to expand our activities to all the campuses," says Mary Beth Bruder, the center's new director. Bruder holds a joint appointment in the Neag School of Education and the School of Medicine.

Through its research and training activities, the center is designed to help people with disabilities throughout the state gain access to education, recreation, and medical care, and to the services they need to live independently. It is one of dozens across the country established by the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act. It has been housed at the Neag School of Education since its creation in 1985.

"The center is designed to promote collaboration not only inside the University but throughout the state, to fulfill the spirit of new federal laws that are designed to really enrich the lives of the developmentally disabled," says Bruder.

The center is administered through a council of deans. "With our combined efforts, we can address issues facing individuals with disabilities from a comprehensive interdisciplinary perspective," says Richard Schwab, dean of education. "By sharing resources and expertise in new ways, we will greatly benefit people in Connecticut and across the country."

Peter Deckers, dean of the School of Medicine, agrees. "This kind of partnership can make a real difference. By working together, and linking our teaching and our research with our clinical care expertise, we bring real strength to the work of improving services and supports for people with disabilities."

Bruder says the first goal of the reconfigured center is to expand its focus to cover life span issues. To do this, the center will be organized into five divisions: early childhood, school age, adulthood, older adulthood, and family support, she says: "This will enable us to develop research, training and service agendas across the life span."

"We also intend to focus on interdisciplinary activities that cross the health, educational, vocational, social and independent living needs of persons with disabilities," Bruder adds.

New projects underway at the center include the following:

  • developing a model for improving care for children with complex medical needs in child care centers;

  • training families on inclusive educational options for their children;

  • conducting a follow-up study on employment for graduates of special education;

  • developing quality job performance standards for case managers with the state Department of Mental Retardation; and

  • developing family support councils throughout the state.

The center will hold an open house at its new location in The Exchange Office Building at the Health Center on Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. For information on the open house, contact the center at (860) 679-1500 or (860) 679-1502.

Kristina Goodnough