Educators attend Pieirs Summer Institute at MSU
Prompted by a significant need in Montana and North Dakota for trained personnel to work with infants, toddlers and young children with low-incidence disabilities and their families, the Preparing Interdisciplinary Early Interventionists for Rural States project was established in 2004. Fifteen educators are on Minot State University’s campus through Thursday for its Summer Institute.
"The Summer Institute brings together students from the two states, allowing them to learn from networking with each other, working together on projects and participating in guest lectures," said Alan Ekblad, associate professor of special education and director of the institute. "Overall, it provides a sense of connectedness and common purpose for all students working in a variety of rural settings."
The theme of the 2008 Annual PIEIRS Summer Institute is "Developmentally Appropriate Practices to Promote Strong Social and Emotional Development in Young Children with Disabilities."
The University of Montana and the Rural Institute on the UM campus, Missoula, and Minot State University and the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities on the MSU campus partnered to secure a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to create the PIEIRS project. The grant funds are being used to:
- revise, implement, expand and evaluate curricula and provide six pre-service interdisciplinary early intervention courses and an intensive end-of-course practicum.
- provide scholarships and support for 60 students.
- provide training both in on-campus classes and through distance education courses.
- develop the strategies necessary to provide the training courses through distance education methods at two universities.
Students targeted for enrollment in the program, known as trainees, are upper-level undergraduate students, non-degree students and graduate students from health, education and human services disciplines. Students who complete the series of courses and practicum will be qualified to meet Montana’s and North Dakota’s Part C requirements for certification of professionals providing early intervention services. Graduates of the program will be qualified in Montana and North Dakota to be employed by Part C service provider agencies, as well as other health, education and human service agencies/programs that serve Part C children and families.
Trainees typically take one or two courses per semester and are required to attend two Summer Institutes, which are held at MSU or UM. In most cases, it takes three years for a trainee to complete the cycle of courses. Courses to secure a master’s degree are offered online.
Students who receive scholarships from PIEIRS grant funds are obligated upon graduation to either work in a job that serves infants, toddlers, children or youth with disabilities for a specific period of time or to repay the federal government.
Originally envisioned to fill a need in Montana and North Dakota, PIEIRS has had a greater impact. There is a national need for trained early intervention personnel, and this project has developed a rural distance in-service training model that can be replicated in other states. Trainees are primarily from Montana and North Dakota, but one currently lives in Arizona, and another is in Colorado.
Initially slated as a five-year grant, PIEIRS has received a one-year extension. For further information, contact Ekblad at 858-3045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.