The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $1.25 million grant to Western Carolina University for groundbreaking instruction to prepare professionals for work with children with autism.

The grant will be distributed over five years to the university and used to train 60 graduate students in psychology, special education and speech-language pathology programs on how to address the complex needs of children with autism spectrum disorders. The first 12-student cohort will be selected this semester, with a Friday, Nov. 15, deadline for applications.

Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 59 children in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum.

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Originally published Oct. 23, 2019.