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University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies

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The University of Delaware (UD) Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS) is a member of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), a nationwide network focused on the advancement of policy and practice for persons with disabilities, their families and their communities.[1] There are over sixty centers referred to as University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. The CDS is under UD's College of Education and Public Policy.



CDS is currently involved in several research, education, and service programs for individuals of all ages and for those of lower socioeconomic status. The following are a few of several programs specifically aimed at individuals with disabilities:


  • Birth-to-Three Early Intervention System’s Child Development Watch Family Survey Report

The Birth to Three Early Intervention System Child Development Watch (CDW) program is a statewide, comprehensive, multidisciplinary system that provides early intervention services and supports for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. To assist the CDW program, the CDS conducted a program evaluation in order to report the outcomes to the federal government. The CDS interviewed a random sample of 220 families who had a child with a disability or developmental delay who had received service from the CDW for at least six months. Questions addressed issues such as changes in their family, changes in children’s development, relationships between the family and CDW, and the accessibility and quality of CDW services.

  • Child Development Training

The State of Delaware offers a two-part, 132-hour training for early childhood professionals called Training for Early Care and Education (TECE). TECE 1 provides fundamental knowledge for working with young children. TECE 2 offers strategies for supporting and guiding young children’s development and learning. Participants learn about the stages and facets of childhood development, how to support this development, signs to look for to assess development concerns, ways to teach children based on how they learn, health and safety issues, how to include children with disabilities in the learning environment, and strategies for working with families.

  • Delaware Early Childhood Longitudinal Study

The purpose of this study was to assess the cost and benefits of early intervention programs. CDS designed a study to follow children entering kindergarten in the fall of 1997 who received early intervention services as children with special needs or Head Start at the age of four as well as those who did not. CDS continues to follow this group of children through the years in order to study the effects of early intervention on future school performance. Results show that early intervention is effective for students with disabilities and those living in poverty. However, the long-term impact of early intervention is unclear and requires further study.[2]

  • Early Learning Center

The UD Early Learning Center (ELC) provides year-round, full-day care and education for children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. The program targets children with disabilities, who live in poverty, or are in foster care, among other hardships. These groups are offered a reduced rate for care. It also offers services and support for families in the community, and research and learning opportunities for University undergraduate and graduate students.

The ELC is a state-of-the-art facility with observation windows, audio-recording and video-recording in all classrooms. All ELC rooms have such safety features as child-proof electrical outlets and protective door panels to prevent pinched fingers. The building’s exterior doors are equipped with alarms. Each infant and toddler room has climbing equipment, and all bathrooms have child-sized fixtures and sufficient space to maneuver a wheelchair. The infant rooms have diffused overhead lighting to protect baby’s eyes when they are lying on their backs.

Students benefit from small class sizes, low child-to-staff ratios, and individualized attention from professional staff and University students who participate in clinical and research experiences at the Center. The facility also includes a gym, art room, laundry room, kitchen where nutritionists provide meals and snacks, and resource rooms with computers, books and educational materials.[3]

Researcher Christina Ragonesi working with 3 year old Will and the UD2.
Researcher Christina Ragonesi working with 3 year old Will and the UD2.[4]

Current Research: A multidisciplinary collaboration through UD's Department of Physical Therapy, Biomechanics and Movement Science (BIOMS) program and Department of Mechanical Engineering, with funds from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, is focused on mobility immersion in children. A three year old is being trained to use UD's newly developed miniature power chair, the UD2. The UD2 is the second generation of a past model and allows better maneuverability in a classroom. Researchers are observing the toddler's socialization patterns and how they change with increased mobility.[4]

  • Community-based Education Alliance

The Community-Based Education Alliance (CBEA) provides consumer driven, person centered, educational model program for students (ages 18-21) with moderate to severe disabilities as they transition from school to adult life and work setting. The goal is for individuals to achieve independence, productivity, and full integration.

  • Community Connectors

Sponsored by UD CDS and AstraZeneca, Community Connectors helps adults with disabilities who live, or plan to live, independently become involved in their community. Through individual and group programs, participants build skills, network, and socialize. Adults with disabilities (age 18 and older) are eligible to apply.

Community Education

Community Education training and outreach programs are available in Delaware for professionals in agencies that provide services to children and adults with psychiatric, cognitive, physical and developmental disabilities. Certificate programs, workshops, conferences, and other community education opportunities are offered in a various topics.

University Education

The Center for Disabilities Studies is affiliated with undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of Delaware, which offers a variety of degrees for students interested in disability issues and related fields of practice. Undergraduate programs include a minor in Disabilities Studies, elementary teacher education, early childhood education, and speech and language pathology. Graduate level programs include an M.P.A in Disability Services Leadership and Management, a PhD in Special Education and M.Ed. in Exceptional Children and Youth.[2]

For more information on the programs above and many more, please see the Center for Disabilities Studies website cited in the reference section below.


  1. Association of University Centers on Disabilities - Accessed October 15, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies - Accessed October 15, 2009.
  3. Early Learning Center - Accessed October 15, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "UD's Early Learning Center enables implementation of mobility immersion" in UDaily Online - Accessed October 15, 2009.