Collaborative Program Provides Funding for High Need Special Education Professionals

Tessa McCarthy and Doug Kostewicz, faculty members in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education's Department of Instruction and Learning, will be co-principal investigators on Project Certifying Orientation and Mobility/Behavior Specialists (COMBS), a professional training grant funded by the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for $1.1 million over the next five years.

The purpose of Project COMBS is to provide tuition assistance for master’s level students who wish to pursue degrees in either orientation and mobility or applied behavior analysis and work with blind or visually impaired students upon graduation. The project focuses on giving certified teachers of visually impaired students the opportunity to become highly qualified, highly collaborative professionals who also are certified as orientation and mobility, and behavior specialists.

Fifteen scholars studying Vision Studies will have the opportunity to add certification as an orientation and mobility specialist and certification as a behavior specialist to their prerequisite certification as a teacher of students with visual impairments. Nine scholars focusing on applied behavior analysis will have the opportunity to gain additional expertise in working with students who are blind or visually impaired in order to implement more accessible interventions and assist with identification and referrals of students who are blind and visually impaired.