Planning Grant Targets Comprehensive Plan for Assisting Children with Speech-Language Needs

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi communication sciences and disorders professor is developing a comprehensive plan to better train the state’s early intervention personnel in hopes of finding ways to better serve families in need of specialized services.


Carolyn Wiles Higdon, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, received a one-year, $184,475 grant to develop a center of excellence model for Mississippi’s early intervention, or EI, program for newborns to 3-year-olds who need speech-language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and special education. The grant was awarded by the Mississippi Department of Health with federal stimulus funds.

Higdon said she will look at data across the state that compare current services to needed services, and she will look at what the state needs to improve its service delivery.

“We have excellent service providers in this state, but the challenge is to develop a cohesive model (to include prevention, screening, evaluation and assessment) for early intervention in Mississippi,” Higdon said.

“The primary purpose of this grant is to develop a comprehensive profile of current training needs by identifying critical gaps in current knowledge regarding personnel prep for EI professionals in the local health districts of Mississippi, as well as to gather data about the current and projected supply and demand for personnel in EI.”

Following completion and depending on the outcome of the one-year data collection phase, Higdon said she envisions a center of excellence that could be expanded to include teletherapy for families in rural areas; a library for parent education; on-site play-based assessments and treatments; specific training in autism spectrum disorders, hearing impairments and other at-risk issues for newborns to 3-year-olds; and a plan for increased centralized billing in Mississippi for Medicaid, private insurance and alternate funding sources for children in the early intervention program.

For more information on programs in the UM Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, go to