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University of Iowa News

Nov. 30, 2004

Grant Allows Students To Visit Lawmakers' Offices

People with disabilities under psychological care, especially the very young, rarely have a role in shaping the laws and policies that impact them and the professionals who provide them with counseling and educational services.

So it's important that emerging leaders in the field of disability and pediatric psychology understand such policies so they can ensure the interests of their clients are represented.

A $887,415 grant secured by University of Iowa College of Education associate professor Daniel Clay will allow Ph.D. students in counseling psychology, school psychology and special education to see first-hand how law and policies are made by spending time in the offices of Iowa state legislators and U.S. senators.

The leadership training grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, allows for the training of leaders in education and health care for children with disabilities. Funding was secured with the help of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

"I am pleased that the University of Iowa received this important funding for special education training," said Harkin, chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and legislation to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. "If we want people with disabilities to succeed in the workplace, we must first help children with disabilities succeed in school."

The project, titled "Preparing Leaders in Disability and Pediatric Psychology: Integrating Practice and Educational Policy," will involve the School Psychology, Counseling Psychology and Special Education programs in the UI College of Education, the Department of Pediatrics at the UI Hospitals and Clinics and Iowa Area Education Agencies.

Clay, Ph.D., a counseling psychology professor and licensed psychologist, will serve as project director along with two co-directors: John Northup, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Education's Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, and Devery Mock, Ph.D. an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Clay said the primary aim of the project is to train doctoral level psychologists with particular skills in disability and pediatric psychology, as well as significant expertise to impact care systems of children with disabilities.

"The upcoming reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, coupled with mandates from the No Child Left Behind Act, have created a tremendous need for leaders who have the ability to design and implement effective service delivery models for children and youth with disabilities," Clay said. "In Iowa, these service delivery issues are consistent with the national trend, but are further complicated by the state's largely rural demographics."

To help meet these challenges, Clay will use the grant money to train a cadre of 11 Ph.D. level leaders with specific skills in disability and pediatric psychology.

Training will include coursework, specialized practica in disability and pediatric psychology and field experience in public policy at the state and national levels.

"All project trainees will receive intensive leadership training by working as research and administrative assistants to core project faculty, as well as serving apprenticeships related to disabilities and child health care public policy issues at both the state and national capitols in Des Moines and Washington D.C.," Clay said.

He said the program's tie-in between theory and field experience will give students a great advantage in applying the knowledge they gain in college to the real world.

"What really makes this special is that it provides opportunities for large-scale systems change based on the specialized knowledge and skills acquired through integration of science and practice," he said. "Students get training and experience in science and clinical practice, which leads to a more thorough and sophisticated understanding of the educational and psychological needs of children with disabilities."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.