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Special-Education Column

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A new study suggests that the number of children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder may be much lower than is commonly believed.

Two University of Nebraska researchers, Robert Reid and John Maag, looked at 1st through 6th graders in a suburban Nebraska school district. Their findings, presented last month at the national meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children, showed that only 0.96 percent of the children met clinical criteria for A.D.H.D. Current national estimates of the prevalence of the disorder, in comparison, range from 3 percent to 10 percent.

The differences, said Mr. Reid, may be due in part to varying means of identifying children with A.D.H.D. He also noted that the district the researchers studied was in a middle-sized, university community where the disorder may occur less frequently than it does in poor, urban areas.

Nonetheless, said Mr. Reid, an assistant professor in the department of special education and communication disorders, the study suggests that the condition may be "overdiagnosed'' in some schools.

Signaling the growing importance of finance issues in special education, the U.S. Education Department has for the first time funded a national center on the topic.

The new Center for Special Education Finance is based at the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit research group in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Virtually all of the states have either recently reformed state funding formulas in special education or are looking at reforms right now,'' Thomas Parrish, the center's associate director, said. He said the center will examine the extent to which finance mechanisms inhibit or promote educational reforms and will explore the rising costs of special education nationwide, among other issues.

The center is contracted to operate for five years with about $400,000 a year in federal funds.

Minority students with disabilities often have two strikes against them in school. Now a new report from the National Council on Disability is recommending ways to improve education for this group.

It suggests, for example, that educators focus on preschool programs and look at collaborative-education models that blend regular education and special education and involve all levels of schooling, from preschool to higher education.

Copies of "Meeting the Unique Needs of Minorities With Disabilities'' are available from the National Council on Disability, 800 Independence Ave., S.W., Suite 814, Washington, D.C. 20591; (202) 267-3846.--D.V.

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