- The University of Southern Mississippi has received a $250,000
grant from the U.S. Department of Education to train personnel from
across the state to work with deaf-blind students.
announced recently by U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), will help
fund the five-year statewide project, which will prepare up to 60
persons 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 personnel working with individuals with multiple
disabilities. These personnel will also be qualified to lead future
training of paraeducators at one of the state's 15 community colleges.
is tremendous," said Dr. Linda McDowell, administrative
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."
The 60 personnel
completing the master's degree will work in a variety of capacities,
including providing direct and related services for school and transition
age students and families, as well as consultation to parents and
other professionals associated with state agencies, private providers,
and the Choctaw Nation.
further training, we can help deaf-blind learners receive the proper
attention and reach their full potential," Taylor said.
be presented in a variety of formats that meet the needs of rural
settings. Courses will be provided in an Internet format using real
and asynchronous time, and include CD-ROMs, videotapes, telephone
dialogue, and e-mail communication as part of the course design.
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 (IVN) connection to increase
student participation and interaction.
degree program will include six courses (provided online by Texas
Tech University) and two practica (one in-state and one out-of-state)
specific to teaching and serving students with deaf-blindness. The
practica will be supervised by the Mississippi Deaf-Blind Project,
which is already conducting in-service 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 (all three to be provided
online). One additional course will be provided online through contract
with an individual provided by the statewide assistive technology
center at Mississippi State University.
will be placed on recruitment strategies that meet statewide needs
for personnel. The Deaf-Blind Census from Mississippi, used to locate
students with deaf-blindness who are served by teachers without
specialized training, will be used to recruit personnel for training.
Collaborative partners currently involved in in-service training
efforts by the Mississippi Deaf-Blind Project (Mississippi Departments
of Education, Rehabilitation, and Mental Heath: Developmental Disabilities
Division) have already identified potential master's students. Other
collaborative partners for this project have the capacity to recruit
students from populations that are underrepresented in the field
of educating students with deaf-blindness (Southern Miss, Jackson
State University, Delta State University, MSU and the Choctaw Nation).
be placed on mentoring students and developing and supervising practicum
sites with the goal of increasing the field-based learning opportunities
for adult students and strengthening the program for children within
the most inclusive setting appropriate for each child with deaf-blindness.
Modification of existing courses will continue to be implemented
based on updated research on deaf-blindness and pedagogy, feedback
from former students, and recommendations addressing cultural sensitivity
in both recruitment and course content.