How many LENDs are there and where are they located?

Currently there are 52 LEND programs located in 44 U.S. states, with an additional six states and three territories reached through program partnerships.  LEND programs operate within a university system, usually as part of a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) or children’s hospital. All programs strengthen their impact through collaboration with healthcare centers, public health agencies, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders in their respective states.


Who funds LEND?

LEND programs started from 1950s efforts to identify children with disabilities as a Title V program priority. LENDs are currently funded under the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act, which originated in 2006 and was most recently reauthorized in 2014. The programs are administered by the Heath Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau.


What do LEND trainees do?

Guided by individualized leadership plans, LEND trainees participate in a variety of activities within and outside the classroom. This can include interactive seminars led by program faculty and guest presenters, clinical experiences related to diagnosis and intervention, independent and group research projects, and educating policymakers about important disability issues. Trainees and their faculty mentors also collaborate with state/local public health agencies and community partners to change and strengthen the systems (healthcare, education, etc.) that provide services to people with ASD/Developmental Disabilities (DD) and their families. Visit our Emerging Leaders Map to learn about the exciting and meaningful work in which other LEND and AUCD trainees are involved.

While LEND programs all have the same goals, each does training differently to meet their state’s unique needs.  Most use a “cohort” approach where trainees meet one or two days per week for a specific amount of time; this is when they learn new content, talk about their clinical and community experiences, work together to solve problems, and discuss current trends in research and practice. Some programs have their trainees complete university-based coursework as part of their required hours, while others use technology to deliver training (e.g. self-paced online learning modules) or encourage trainees to interact with each other (e.g. discussion boards). 


How does AUCD support LENDs?

AUCD central office staff work directly with programs to make sure that knowledge and effective training strategies are being shared – so everyone can get better together. This support (sometimes called “technical assistance”) comes in the form of leading topical work groups, planning collaborative in-person and virtual meetings, highlighting creative projects, promoting trainee leadership, managing and analyzing data, developing resources, and building/strengthening relationships with experts from outside the network that can help programs make a more significant impact. Learn more about how AUCD and MCHB are strong partners in these efforts.



Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs aim to improve health outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.These programs provide graduate-level training to the next generation of clinical, research, and community leaders. By participating in LEND, trainees learn about the importance of person- and family-centered care (honoring values and culture).

LEND trainees come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and including individuals from many disciplines, including advocacy and family leadership. All current and recent former trainees are part of the AUCD Emerging Leaders Community.