Special Education

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The American Psychological Association has issued a statement criticizing a controversial technique for helping people with autism communicate.

The technique, known as facilitated communication, is used in a growing number of public schools to help autistic students, who are most often characterized by severe difficulties with speech and communication.

Helpers, or facilitators, support the hand, arm, or elbow of the autistic person, enabling the student to "talk" by typing on a keyboard.

Critics liken the technique to a Ouija-board game, suggesting that the facilitators guide their pupils' hands. They also note the lack of controlled experimental studies on its effectiveness. (See Education Week, Nov. 17, 1993.)

The A.P.A. statement calls facilitated communication "controversial and unproved."

However, it did not reject further research on the technique's potential usefulness with people who are less severely disabled.

Roughly 70 percent of U.S. students with mental retardation are being educated in separate classrooms and buildings, a report by an advocacy group states.

The Arc, formerly known as the Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States, compiled its analysis using recent data from the U.S. Education Department.

Compared with a similar study the group issued in 1992, the percentage of children with mental retardation who spend most of their school day in classrooms with their nondisabled peers rose slightly, from 6.7 percent to 7.4 percent.

The group has long lobbied for schools to teach all disabled children in regular classrooms.

Copies of the report are available for $3 each from The Arc, 500 East Border St., Suite 300, Arlington, Tex. 76010; (817) 261-6003.

The Chesapeake Institute has produced an information kit for parents and teachers on attention-deficit disorder.

The Washington-based institute produced the kit with a grant from the U.S. Education Department.

The kit includes specific teaching strategies, common "myths" about A.D.D., and a guide to recent A.D.D. research.

The kits are available from many special-education organizations, including the Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Dr., Reston, Va., 22091; (703) 620-3660.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

Vol. 14, Issue 01

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