Special Education Column
In response to a critical shortage of teachers of the deaf, the University of Rochester's School of Education and Human Development and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf are cooperating in a master's-degree program that prepares teachers to work with hearing-impaired students in secondary schools.
The number of hearing-impaired students being "mainstreamed" into regular high-school programs has grown significantly since the enactment of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. But few teachers have been prepared to meet the particular educational needs of hearing-impaired students.
The two-year Joint Educational Specialist Program for the Deaf, which was begun in 1980, specifically addresses that problem. This year, 16 students graduated from the program, which is supported in part by the U.S. Education Department's office of special education.
Officials of the program say the graduates are not only prepared to teach both hearing and hearing-impaired students, but they are also trained to serve in their districts as consultants on the problems of the deaf.
In the past year, state and local special-education officials have been keeping track of the latest developments in their field through a telecommunications system called "SpecialNet," established by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.
Launched in 1981, the "electronic mail" and information-retrieval system has linked educators responsible for the education of handicapped students at all levels through microcomputers hooked up by phone to a master computer. The nasdse reports that the system currently has more than 600 "accounts" in 50 states.
A study of 52 North Carolina mothers of autistic children or children with communication disorders has found that, in a majority of cases, mothers and other family members are able to "adapt quite well" to the demands of caring for a handicapped child, according to a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
At least 80 percent of the mothers reported that their marriages were happy, and, despite their child's disorder, almost the same percentage were "not at risk of being depressed," according to Marie M. Bristol, the principal investigator for the project. She said that among the participants, the divorce rate was about 13 percent, which is the average rate for the Southeast region of the U.S.
Only about one-fourth of the mothers had experienced depression, the study found. Absence of depression, Ms. Bristol said, may be related to the early diagnosis and identification of the children's disorders. The mothers who felt guilty about having a handicapped child were those who had not received special services for their children or themselves, she added. "What they were responding to was the ambiguity," Ms. Bristol said.--sgf