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Special Education Column

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A three-year, $250,000 study by the American Council on Rural Special Education is examining the licensing of special-education teachers in sparsely populated areas.

Doris Helge, executive director of the council, said that rural special educators may be required to work with students with a variety of mild handicaps, such as learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and mild mental retardation, yet many states require a teacher to be separately certified and trained to teach each one of those handicapping conditions. This requirement may pose a burden to rural areas that already find it hard to attract special-education teachers, she said.

Ms. Helge pointed out that 11,000 of the school districts around the country, or 67 percent, are considered rural, and each one employs at least one special-education teacher.

"We want to find out when generic certification works well, and when it would be more appropriate to have specialized certification," she said.

A new device enables the deaf to "hear" by translating words and sounds into a distinct series of vibrations and pressure sensations on the skin.

The "multichannel virotactile communicator" is manufactured by the Institute of Logopedics, a private residential facility for handicapped children, under a grant from the U.S. Education Department. The device breaks down speech sounds into 24 different vibrations. By feeling these vibrations, a deaf child can tell whether he or she is pronouncing a word correctly, said Connie Pickler, a spokesman for the institute.

She said the instrument, which fits around a child's waist and is strapped to the legs, is most successful for those who have been profoundly deaf from birth. Each device now costs about $2,400, but the instrument could be mass-produced in the near future, reducing the cost, she added.

The Education Department is revising the timetable under which states must hand in their plans for educating handicapped students.

The new timetable requires states to submit their plans on a staggered three-year basis beginning in 1986.

Since the implementation of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, each state has been required to submit its plan--setting out policies and procedures for education of the handicapped--in order to receive federal funds. Previously, the states submitted their plans at the same time.

All state plans expire next year, said Thomas Irvin, acting deputy director of the office of special education programs. One-third of the states will submit three-year plans beginning in 1986; the next third will submit their plans beginning in 1987, and the last third will file in 1988. The two-thirds of the states that will not be submitting plans in 1986 will be allowed to operate under the unchanged portions of their 1984-86 plans without submitting a complete plan.--at

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