The Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (GaLEND) is an interdisciplinary training program for future professionals, disability advocates, and family members. GaLEND operates as a program of the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University (GSU), in collaboration with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), Emory’s Maternal Child Health Center of Excellence, and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These and other community partners offer the expert faculty and resources necessary to provide exceptional interdisciplinary training and services.

The GaLEND Program is funded by a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). There are now 52 LEND programs across the United States. Collectively, they form a network that addresses regional and national issues of importance to children with special health care needs, with a focus on children with autism and related disorders and their families. “The Georgia LEND program is committed to improving the care of children with disabilities and autism while reducing health disparities in underserved populations,” said Daniel Crimmins, Professor of Public Health and Director of GaLEND. “This program allows us to educate the next generation of leaders who will support Georgia’s citizens with disabilities in living more productive, fuller lives.”

For more information, please contact Mark Crenshaw.

Trainee Testimonials

Tim Beighley (Advocacy 2018-2019)

I was interested in being a part of Georgia LEND because I want to encourage and inspire other people through my participation in the program. I also want to teach others what it is like for me living with Cerebral Palsy. I want to learn how I can work with with other people with different disabilities better.

Jennifer Boner (Occupational Therapy 2018-2019)

I’m currently a student in the masters program of Occupational Therapy at Georgia State and I’m so happy to be part of this year’s LEND cohort! As a future occupational therapist I hope to learn more about supporting the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families, functioning as a leader in my community, and effectively caring for future clients using person-centered and strengths-based approaches to therapy. What I’ve enjoyed the most about being a Georgia LEND trainee so far has been learning alongside so many bold and motivated leaders. I am learning so much and gaining greater perspective from the conversations held in class and I can’t wait to see how we impact the community together!

Jennie Chambliss (Occupational Therapy 2018-2019)

As a future Occupational Therapist, I have the duty of always serving my clients to the best of my ability, and I am so thankful for LEND for optimizing my ability to do so. I love being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share my passions for disability rights and research, leadership, and actively listening to those around us. Having a brother born in my family with Down syndrome put me on a life long journey of advocacy for the disability community. As a future OT, I want to always see the individual before the diagnosis and the strengths before the challenges, and I am thankful for this program for training so well to do so. I am looking forward to the year of listening and learning that I have ahead of me.

Kristin Fauntleroy (Medicine 2018-2019)

I feel like medical school has and residency will teach me the clinical knowledge I will need, but being apart of LEND has helped teach me about people as individuals. I feel honored that I am able to learn about individual needs, goals, personalities, lives, families- all the things that make us human in this unique setting. Theres the textbook and there is the person, and to begin my career focusing on the person first will shape the way I approach clinical practice for the rest of my life- with each person as their unique and individual self. I leave LEND everyday feeling humbled and appreciative to be apart of this experience.

Camara Gregory (Public Health 2018-2019)

I love that the program is interdisciplinary, meaning that I am able to connect with and learn from individuals from many different professions and backgrounds. I am also excited for the different components such as, the family mentoring experience and PAR projects, which allow us to actually practice/apply what we are learning in class. These projects also allow us to learn about disabilities from the perspective of an advocate, family member, and/or organizations/ agencies.

Taylor Hemmerick (Physical Therapy 2018-2019)

Being a future physical therapist, I hope to provide so much more for my patients with neurodevelopmental disabilities than just providing them with the care that they need to improve their functional mobility. I hope that one day I can provide them with the resources that they need to become successful in every aspect of their life while also advocating for my patients, which is why I became interested in becoming a trainee. Thus far, GaLEND has challenged me in my thought process in what is the best way for providing care and has shown me important characteristics of becoming a strong leader within your field. Being able to step outside of a typical classroom to collaborate with others while discovering their perspectives and different passions within the disability community has been one of the highlights of the program thus far.

Vanessa Hill (Speech-Language Pathology, 2018-2019)

I love how GaLEND provides a very natural approach to learning. I love learning in an environment that takes me out of a theoretical/test-based classroom. GaLEND also provides the opportunity to start building a network of personal relationships with professionals and advocates. These relationships are helping me build upon my foundational skills and learn about new tools to make me a better clinician.

Heather Kuhn (Law 2018-2019)

My whole life I always found myself in advocacy roles. Whether those roles were as big sister advocating for my parents to let my siblings and me do something or teaching high school students to speak for themselves to their Congress person — I was always there. As a law student, I find myself here again. Georgia LEND combines my background of being a special education teacher; law student and advocate into one awesome interdisciplinary experience. I love that I gain exposure to so many different perspectives while learning about the experience of disability.

Elizabeth Loncher (Occupational Therapy 2018-2019)

I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to learn about competent, family-centered care alongside like-minded, passionate individuals. Because of our differences in expertise, the conversations facilitated at Georgia LEND explore perspectives beyond what my master’s of occupational therapy education can offer. Its emphasis on the importance of these conversations has nurtured my concept of interdisciplinary care, and will ultimately increase my capabilities as a future clinician.


Mariana Ortiz (Family Advocacy 2018-2019)

I was interested in being a part of LEND because it seemed like a great program that would allow me to develop professionally while learning from other disciplines related to working with individuals with disabilities like my younger sister.

Kayla Rodriguez (Advocacy, GaLEND 2018-2019)

I was interested in being involved in LEND because I want to be a better advocate for people who are autistic and people with disabilities. The two most important things I hope to learn in LEND are be more aware and informed of what’s going on in the disability and neurodiverse community and how to better stand up for people with different disabilities than myself. The best part of LEND so far is all the friends I’ve made and what I’ve already learned.

Luke Roman (Family Advocacy, 2018-2019)

I became interested in joining GaLEND after working along side two former LEND trainees, Marnie Harris and Nathan Heald, and hearing their stories of the experience. Before I heard about LEND, I was always curious how they both seemed to know everyone in the disability community and had a vast knowledge that exceeds what they possibly learned in school. They both have leadership styles that I look up to and just seemed enlightened. They both had the same passion as I did for fighting for inclusion and creating a better world for individuals with disabilities, they just seemed to have the tools to get it done. I just didn’t understand what their “kryptonite” was. Then I learned they had both taken part in LEND and I heard about how life changing the experience was for them. They are both huge role models to me and after they recommended I look into LEND, I knew it was the place for me. After a few weeks of being in the program and meeting other former trainees, I realized this isn’t an isolated event. There is something special about going through this program and I know that LEND is giving me the tools I will need to make a substantial impact in the fight for an more inclusive world for everyone.

 Emily Ronkin (Clinical Psychology 2018-2019)

I hope to do developmental assessments for young children with developmental disabilities. One of the most important parts of my job will be providing families with recommendations for the future and I hope to learn in LEND how to provide those recommendations in the most effective and sensitive way. I want to learn learn more about how to effectively communicate within an interdisciplinary team to streamline priorities and care so children get the best care possible.

The best part so far has been the people! The 2018-19 LEND trainees form a diverse group people from multiple disciplines who all offer unique perspectives from which I can learn.

For a closer look at the GaLEND Trainees please visit The People of Georgia LEND on Facebook.

Download the Georgia LEND Brochure 


GaLEND Videos

Georgia LEND Family Mentor Program

LEND Trainee Success Story – Donna Johnson

LEND Trainee Success Story – Tonya Talapatra

LEND Trainee Success Story – Matt Segal

LEND Trainee Success Story – Sarah Jackson