Andrea P. McDonnell, University of Utah assistant professor of special education, has been awarded a U.S. Department of Education grant that she says will be used to directly affect and improve the quality of life for 150-200 Utah children.

The three-year, $349,825 grant will be used to further a program that assimilates children with severe disabilities into age-appropriate regular classrooms part time."We expect that this project will improve the quality of life for up to 200 Utah children with severe disabilities over the next year," says McDonnell.

The Utah Elementary Integration Dissemination Project advances work begun through the federally funded Utah Elementary Integration Project that established neighborhood school programs for 60 disabled students in six school districts during 1987-89.

Project staff will use the grant to train teachers, administrators and parents to place students with severe disabilities in neighborhood elementary schools, arrange part-time participation in regular education classes, establish teams between regular- and special-education teachers and individualize parent and family involvement.

Students with severe disabilities benefit from attendance at regular schools with non-disabled children because they learn social skills and receive emotional support and psychological benefits from friendships that often continue after school hours, according to McDonnell.

Assisting McDonnell on the project are co-principal investigators John McDonnell, associate professor of special education; and Michael L. Hardman, professor and chair of special education; project coordinator, Nadine Thorson; and research associate Richard O'Donnell.