University of Nebraska receives $1M grant to fund special education

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - There is a critical shortage of services for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Midwest, according to professors at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. A $1 million grant from the US Department of Education aims to not only train professionals in special education for the deaf and hard of hearing, but also require them to stay and serve in the Midwest.

The $1 million will fund 30 students, 15 from the speech pathology program and 15 from the deaf education program. It will fully cover tuition for all 30. Right now there is slight overlap in classes between the two programs, but not much.

"We can think we're working together because I'm working on the things I know about and you're working on the things you know about," said Kristy Weissling, associate professor of practice at UNL. "But what really maximizes service is when the two disciplines work together seamlessly toward common goals."

Now, the courses will help students from both programs learn more about what the other is doing and how they will interact in the future.

"When it comes to actually providing them with actual training and real life experiences, I feel like that's where we've fallen short, until now," said Anne Thomas, a coordinator for the Deaf Education program at UNL.

The new course design will include nearly 15 credits of interdisciplinary work.

"They can participate in shared course work, assignments, field experiences," said Thomas. "They're really learning about each other, from each other, with each other. That's really the interprofessional education philosophy."

Both Weissling and Thomas agree, this program could mean good things for Nebraska and other Midwestern states. Said Weissling:

"Rural communities are going to have access to state of the art teachers, who are ready and prepared to perform services with students who are deaf and hard of hearing that really is maximizing their potential."