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Coloring in the Gaps

Project EARLY addresses shortage of therapist for children with autism

Researchers from the UTSA College of Education and Human Development’s Department of Educational Psychology were awarded a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs for Project EARLY (Evidence-based Action, Research and Learning to support Young children with or at risk for autism). 

UTSA researchers will use the funding to help meet the nation’s shortage of therapists who are trained to treat children with neurodivergent disorders. 

“Both school psychologists and applied behavioral analysts have documented shortages, but there are even fewer professionals who possess competencies and credentialing across both specialty areas,” says Felicia Castro-Villarreal, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and co-principal investigator of the grant. “Project EARLY seeks to address this professional need by increasing the quantity and enhancing the quality of providers available to offer comprehensive services for children with autism.” 

Graduate students who participate in Project EARLY will complete cooperative coursework in school psychology and applied behavior analysis while engaging in innovative professional learning communities. Cross-disciplinary coursework will include experiential learning and paid internships at the UTSA Autism Treatment Center and the autism diagnostic clinic at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. UTSA graduates will also complete school consultation projects through the City of San Antonio’s Early Head Start Program. 

Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to sit for the qualifying exams necessary for state and national credentials. 

UTSA educational psychology faculty expect to begin admitting their first cohort of students in fall 2022. 

Project EARLY is representative of the educational psychology department’s long history of interdisciplinary collaboration. The hands-on learning experiences available to students provide them with the opportunity to work with and learn from each other and with leading experts in the assessment and treatment of autism. 

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