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November 2, 2003

$250000 grant aids teacher training

From: Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS - Nov 2, 2003

Schooling will improve for kids who can neither hear nor speak

Special to The Clarion-Ledger

The University of Southern Mississippi will use a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to train educators from across the state to work with deaf-blind students.

The grant will help fund a five-year statewide project to prepare up to 60 people through a master's degree program in severe disabilities with emphasis in dual-sensory impairment.

The master's will satisfy state agency certification requirements for working directly with, or supervising employees working with, individuals with multiple disabilities. They will also be qualified to lead future training of paraeducators at one of the state's 15 community colleges.

"The need is tremendous," said Linda McDowell, administrative director of the Mississippi Deaf-Blind Project, which is housed in the Southern Miss Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education.

"Students in Mississippi identified as deaf-blind are scattered throughout the state and often are the only (deaf-blind) child in a particular county. Their teachers need the specialized training and support proposed in this project in order to be able to best serve these children."

Those completing the master's degree program will work in a variety of capacities, including providing direct and related services for students and families, as well as consultation to parents and other professionals associated with state agencies, private providers, and the Choctaw Nation.

"We can help deaf-blind learners receive the proper attention and reach their full potential," U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor said in a statement.

Courses will be provided in an Internet format and will include CD-ROMs, videotapes, telephone dialogue, and e-mail communication.

Online courses will also have one scheduled face-to-face classroom experience between the instructor and students and at least one opportunity for Interactive Video Network connection to increase student participation and interaction.

The master's degree program will include six courses provided online by Texas Tech University and two practica specific to teaching and serving students with deaf-blindness.

The practica will be supervised by the Mississippi Deaf-Blind Project, already conducting training and providing on-site technical assistance.

Three other courses included in the proposed degree are selected from the existing Southern Miss master's programs in severe/multiple disabilities, including a course in administration and the law, a course on transitioning to adult services and an applied research/independent study course.

One additional course will be provided online through contract with an individual provided by the statewide assistive technology center at Mississippi State University.

Copyright © 2003, The Clarion-Ledger.