University of Memphis and Harwood Center Partner to Support Children with Special Needs

 January 28, 2020 - The University of Memphis and the Harwood Center are developing a partnership which will create an early learning classroom for children with special needs ages 2-6 scheduled to open in fall 2020. The classroom will be housed on the University of Memphis campus and priority enrollment will be offered to children of University students, faculty and staff.

 In the fall of 2021, pending State Building Commission approval, the Harwood Center will relocate its full base of operations to the UofM’s Park Avenue Campus and open seven additional classrooms for preschool-aged children with special needs, including autism. The partnership will then serve over 100 local families.

The Harwood Center was founded in 1957 with a mission to enable children with developmental needs to reach their full potential. This mission has been growing in depth and scope over the past 63 years to support children from West Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Rachel Lauletta, BCBA, LBA, is the current executive director of the Harwood Center and has been integral in their service expansion and university partnership.

“Harwood is extremely grateful for the opportunity to build on our long-standing partnership with the University of Memphis,” said Lauletta. “We look forward to combining the strengths of both programs to help close the gap for services for children with developmental needs in the Mid-South community.”

A partnership between the UofM and the Harwood Center has the potential to meet the needs of students and families in the tri-state area as well as expand services for children with developmental delays for both organizations. This expansion will include clinical sites for several academic programs on campus and will provide laboratory research opportunities for faculty, as well as highly demanded child care for faculty, staff, students and community members.

“This partnership will bridge the University of Memphis’ commitment to education, inclusion and innovation and the Harwood Center’s commitment to access and opportunity while providing much-needed resources for children with developmental needs through a laboratory learning environment,” said Sally Parish, associate vice president for educational initiatives. “This is a great opportunity for our University and our city, and we look forward to welcoming these new families and students to our campus.”

With three classroom locations across Shelby County, the Harwood Center provides services to students through specialized pre-school classrooms, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) classrooms, ABA individual sessions and in-home sessions. The community need and demand for such services is significant, as Harwood’s waitlist often exceeds its classroom capacity.

 The Harwood Center has been a longtime partner of the University of Memphis through the College of Education’s Special Education and ABA programs through the leadership of Dr. Laura Casey and her research focusing on children with autism and early intervention strategies. The collaborative site will allow for the continuation of these existing academic partnerships as well as a new partnership with the College of Professional & Liberal Studies and their Early Intervention Specialist concentration which will be able to engage UofM students at the Harwood Center to provide real-world learning opportunities, research and career preparation.

 Harwood’s relocation to campus accounts for the latest addition to the University Schools educational compendium, which currently includes the Barbara K. Lipman Early Learning & Research Center,  National Blue Ribbon Designated Campus School, University Middle and a state-of-the-art infant development facility being launched with Porter-Leath.