ATLANTA, GA – The National Research Consortium on Mental Health in Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (MHIDD) has awarded $15,000 to the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University (GSU) to train 20 school psychology students and 20 school counseling students on how to build the competence to support the mental health concerns of students with developmental disabilities (MH/DD) in schools. The CLD Director and principal investigator for this project, Dr. Emily Graybill, is “excited about the potential that that this new funding brings for us to continue building the capacity of school professionals to respond to the behavioral health needs of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Dr. Graybill will be collaborating with Claire Donehower, PhD (Program Coordinator, Special Education); Erin Mason, PhD, (Assistant Professor, School Counseling); and Catherine Perkins, (Clinical Professor, School Psychology) - in the implementation of this grant.
The specific aims of this project include increasing: awareness of mental health concerns in students with developmental disabilities; knowledge of signs and symptoms of mental health concerns of students with disabilities; and skills in supporting students with developmental disabilities who are showing signs of mental health concerns. The CLD seeks to fill the gaps in university training available to future school-based mental health professionals. The proposed study will use mixed reality simulation (MRS) as a training tool for preservice mental health professionals.
The MRS lab at GSU is called the Interactive Teaching and Learning Lab (ITLL). ITLL utilizes a mixed-reality teaching environment called TeachLivE that supports the development of students’ classroom interaction skills. In the lab, pre-service educators walk into a room where everything looks like an elementary, middle, or high school classroom. However, unlike a traditional classroom, the lab is a virtual setting and the students in the classroom are avatars. School counselors and school psychologists can engage in one-to-one interactions with students who are presenting as students that have developmental disabilities and mental health concerns.
The proposed project will add evidence to the literature on the effectiveness of incorporating content on individuals with co-occurring MH/DD diagnoses into university training programs for school-based mental health professionals using an innovative teaching approach. Furthermore, this project will increase awareness of this population among faculty members within these training programs.