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Special Education Column

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While increasing numbers of preschools are coming face to face with children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol or drugs, there is little information available on the kinds of treatments that work best with this population.

In an effort to fill that void, the U.S. Education Department has awarded a five-year, $4- million grant to three universities to conduct research on the problem. The grant, being shared by the Universities of Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota, will help establish the first Early Childhood Research Institute on Substance Abuse, to be housed at the University of Kansas.

The researchers plan to track approximately 300 children from birth through age 5 who were exposed to drugs or alcohol before they were born.

"We'll be working with health-care professionals in neonatal intensive-care units, parents, foster parents, day-care providers, and preschool teachers," said Judith Carta, director of the project. "We're looking for some hard data--what kinds of behaviors do [these children] really exhibit?"

Zenith Electronics Corporation this fall unveiled the nation's first television sets with built-in decoders to provide captioning for heating-impaired viewers.

The decoders are designed to unscramble closed-caption signals from companies that provide the service. While primarily intended for heating-impaired viewers, captioning has also become an educational tool for millions of others--including illiterate adults, young children learning to read, non-English-speaking immigrants, and remedial readers. (See Education Week, June 6, 1990.)

Most closed-caption viewers have used separate decoder boxes, placed on top of television sets. But the boxes are expensive and only about 400,000 are in use nationally.

To extend the reach of closed-captioning, a 1990 federal law requires all television manufacturers to equip new sets with built-in decoders by 1993. Zenith, beating the rush, will sell the new sets for about $20 more than earlier sets without the decoders.

The Council for Exceptional Children and the Association for the Advancement of Health Education have produced a resource guide to help educators teach special-education students how to guard against AIDS.

The booklet contains recommendations from a national forum on the subject held in 1989, as well as basic information about the disease and the virus that causes it, AIDS- education policies, and curricular materials.

Copies of the booklet are available from Ginger Katz, education specialist, the Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, Va. 22091-1589.

National-Louis University in Evanston, Ill., has created its first Endowed Chair in Special Education.

The chair, funded by a $l-million donation, will be occupied by Diane German, who has specialized in research on children and adolescents who have difficulty with "word-finding skills." These are individuals who, despite having a good understanding of language, are unable to find the words to express their thoughts.

In an effort to shed some of the stigma associated with the word "retarded," the Association for Retarded Citizens is changing its name.

Delegates at the national group's convention this fall in Portland, Ore., voted to change the name of the group to "The Arc."

"Kids use the word 'retard' on the playground and they use it in a pejorative sense," said Liz Moore, a spokesman for the group. She said some of the organization's 120,000 local chapters had also complained that some younger parents had refused to join their chapters because of the stigma attached to the word.

The U.S. Education Department has awarded nearly $875,000 in grants to support five projects aimed at improving services to children with attention-deficit disorder. The condition, which affects an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of all schoolchildren, is characterized by a short attention span, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Children with the disorder were the subject of a major battle in the Congress last year over whether they should be specifically entitled to special-education services. (See Education Week, Oct. 10, 1991.) Parents said children with the disorder do not get the help they need in schools now because schools often exclude them from special-education programs.

Robert R. Davila, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, said the projects receiving funding "will look at the available research on A.D.D., find out what works, and convert the information into practical knowledge that parents and educators can use to better serve children with this disorder."

Researchers and institutions awarded grants include: Roscoe Dykman, the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Center, Little Rock, Ark.; James Swanson, University of California at Irvine; James McKinney, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla.; Larry Carlson, Federal Resource Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington; and Tom Fiore, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, N.C.--D.V.

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