TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida A&M student Shelby Collins knows firsthand what it's like caring for a child with disabilities.
"She was diagnosed with spinal dystrophy... so her muscles deteriorate as she ages. So my family had to take her to physical therapy as she was living with us and growing up," said Collins.
Seeing everything his cousin Kaylee went through at such a young age ,gave him a new life purpose.
"Bringing her to all those appointments and seeing how much it helped, inspired me to do that for somebody else," Collins explained.
The CDC says there's been an increase in children ages three to 17 who have a severe developmental disability. Right now, one child out of every six needs some type of special care.
"These folks exist in our communities and they are typically under served in our communities," said Dawn Brown-Cross, the director of the physical therapy division at FAMU. "So its important that we can include them as much as possible."
Next fall, the KiDDs Program will start at FAMU. FAMU and Florida State graduate students will learn how to work with children with disabilities through the use of what's being called innovative healthcare.
The $1.2 million grant from the Florida Department of Education is focused on providing a variety of services including occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and special education teachers.
The children receiving the services will include those whose families do not make a lot of money, along with children who might deal with some sort of language barrier.
"The students are going to participate in seminars, hands-on training with people with disorders ranging from autism to the deaf so across the spectrum of children with severe disabilities," said Brown-Cross.
Collins is encouraged that this program will better equip him to help his family and others in need of a place to turn for support.
"Just to be able to offer something helpful instead of sitting on the sidelines," Collins said.
The KiDDs program will provide training for 45 students for five years. The university will start accepting applications starting in January and funding will be administered in August.