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USM receives $956K grant to support early childhood inclusion center

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications Inc.

Southern Miss’s Institute for Disability Studies has received a $956,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Human Services that will help support training programs and related services provided by the Mississippi Early Childhood Inclusion Center (MECIC).

MECIC is a statewide program that promotes early childhood inclusion through quality training and technical assistance to educators who teach infants, toddlers, and preschoolers while serving young children with disabilities in their childcare centers and preschool programs.

“This is the second year the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) has supported the specific goals and efforts of MECIC,” said center director Dr. Alicia Westbrook. “IDS values their continued support and is thankful that the agency recognizes the need for supporting children with disabilities and their families.”

The center provides a family navigation system to support early identification of children with developmental concerns, including children who are at-risk for cognitive delays and autism spectrum disorder. The family navigation system conducts developmental screenings throughout the state and provides autism-specific screenings for concerned families.

Family navigators provide support for families by walking with them as they deal with everything from a failed screen to a diagnosis by making referrals for diagnostic evaluations, intervention services, and providing resources specific to child and family needs

Dr. Rebekah Young, IDS interim director, notes that as a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, IDS is committed to promoting community inclusion for all individuals with disabilities.

“All of our work focuses on creating and enhancing opportunities for community inclusion regardless of age or background,” Young said. “We are excited to have this opportunity to partner with MDHS to continue our work in early childhood inclusion by increasing quality inclusive learning environments for very young children with disabilities and providing support for their families.”

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