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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Center for Social Development and Education Leads $400,000 Study for Special Olympics

Institutes and students are collaborating together for the Center for Social Development and Education?s attitude study on mental retardation.
Institutes and students are collaborating together for the Center for Social Development and Education?s attitude study on mental retardation.

The Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) has been selected by Special Olympics International to lead a multinational study on societal attitudes and practices towards individuals with mental retardation. This is the first-time this kind of attitude survey will be conducted on a worldwide level. Partnering with Gallup International, CSDE will survey 9,000 pepole in ten countries: Japan, China, Russia, Germany, Egypt, Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Mexico and the United States.

“Very little has been done to measure attitudes on mental retardation cross-culturally,” explains Gary Siperstein, director of CSDE. “The goal is to come up with a message to all countries on what they can do to improve programs and practices for people with the disability.”

Utilizing Gallup’s polling resources, the center will survey the general public on their perceptions of people with mental retardation in areas of education, employment, and residential living. Questions have been designed to be culturally relevant and topics have been gathered from existing literature on attitudes. Floyd Fowler and Carol Cosenza of the Center for Survey Research have helped in the questionnaire design and are consulting on issues of sampling and data collection.

At the conclusion of the year-long study, the results will be published in different languages and presented at a symposium to be held in June 2003 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the meeting, organizers plan to assess the impact of the report and plan for a survey expansion to a new set of countries, results of which would be presented in China in 2006.

Siperstein is particularly excited that both undergraduate and graduate students will be working on the team, which includes CSDE’s Stephen Gould. “Our students are taking leadership roles in the research. Psychology undergraduates Jennifer Norins, Amanda Mohler, and Jason Newhall are able to practice what they learn in the classroom and apply it to the project,” says Siperstein. Norrins, senior research assistant, is using the study as her senior honor’s project.

The partnership with Special Olympics builds upon the center’s work with the Kennedy Foundation on a number of projects. The center is recognized locally, regionally, and nationally as one of the few centers in the country that addresses the social aspects of education. “We have studied the attitudes of teachers, parents, physicians, and children for over twenty years towards individuals with disabilities,” says Siperstein. A research and training institute, CSDE is dedicated to promoting quality education and social development for students of all ages, particularly those at risk for academic and social failure.