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Developing a Literacy Program for Children with Severe Disabilities

Author(s): Karen A. Erickson and David A. Koppenhaver


Source: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 48, No. 8 (May, 1995), pp. 676-684
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Reading Association
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Karen

A. Erickson_

David A. Koppenhaver

Developing

literacy

for

program
severe

children

with

disabilities

The combined use of technology and


child-centered

instruction

in this
in the active

resulted

program

of the teachers you encounter across your pub


lic school career do not view you as capable of
to read and write and consequently
learning

provide you with few opportunities to learn


written language (Light & McNaughton,
1993). Even if you are fortunate enough to

participation
of severely disabled
students in reading and writing

teachers who
view you as a capable
and see literacy as an important part
of your instructional
program,
you are likely

have

learner

activities.

to engage largely inword level skill-and-drill

seldom
activities,
even
more
and

reading
rarely

or listening
composing

to text
text

(Koppenhaver & Yoder, 1993).


not easy

It's

trying to learn to read and write

if you're a child with severe disabilities in


U.S. public schools today. In fact, you have
at best a 30% chance of being able to read and
write as well as a child who can walk and talk
but

is

otherwise

the

just

same

as

you

(Koppenhaver, 1991). You are likely to have

stream classrooms.

one or more

assistive

different

disabilities

that make

your world

from that experienced

by your

severe
disabilities,
speech impairments,
hearing or visual impair
ments,
cognitive
delays, or seizures. Your par
ents have likely been so overwhelmed
since
nondisabled

peers: physical

and
your birth with your medical,
therapeutic,
basic care needs, that literacy has been a lesser

priority (Light & Kelford Smith, 1993).


Your preschool
to be
teachers are unlikely
aware of emergent
or
to
research
in
literacy
clude written
in
activities
your early
language
intervention
(Coleman,
program
1991). Many

676

At the same time,


legal and educational
entitle you to a wide
tion services
and to
strictive environment,
as
being
interpreted

The Reading

Teacher

Vol.

48, No.

May

you have unprecedented


laws now
rights. Public
range of early interven
education
in a least re
which
is increasingly
full inclusion
in main

A national

network

of state

has been

estab
technology
projects
to make
and
teachers
your parents
of the latest and greatest
technology
to compensate
available
for your developmen
tal differences.
are in
Insurance
companies

lished
aware

creasingly paying for that technology when it


is necessary
for your participation
in daily life,
are
and educational
in
systems
increasingly
such
in
individual
your
cluding
technology
ized education plan (IEP) as a related service.
even if your parents
and
Unfortunately,
teachers are savvy enough to demand and ob
tain all of your legal and educational
rights,

1995

?1995

international

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(pp.676-684)

Association
Reading

you return to those critical

stumbling

It

blocks.

is difficult for you to learn to read and write,


many
you

of the people
as a capable

to you do not view


and there are no

closest
learner,

models of best practice in providing you with


literacy

appropriate

instruction.

It iswithin this context that the following


instructional program was developed
by a spe
cial educator, a speech pathologist,
and an in
structional
support team in order to begin ad
dressing these stumbling blocks. We recognize
the program's
limitations from theoretical per
but would ask readers to recognize
spectives,
that none

of the research

supporting

current

theoretical underpinnings was conducted with


children who have severe disabilities.
ticle grew out of discussions
between

This

ar

the two

authors, and the resulting


repre
description
sents our best understanding
of the program at
present. Our hope is that both reading teach
ers and researchers will take up the challenge

and four had been in classes for children with


mental retardation. The child with the degen
erative disease had attended a typical public el
school classroom.
ITie children had
ementary
made few academic gains in any of these class

es. Their individualized education plans (IEPs)


had emphasized fine motor tasks and self-help
skills. Those IEPs that included academics fo
cused on tasks such as name recognition
and
rote memorization.
of the IEP con
Regardless
more
than
tent, few of the children mastered

50% of the objectives in a given year.


This consistent lack of progress and the
hope that these childrenwould progress if they
had computers and other devices that allowed
them to be more interactive
learners prompted
a group of teachers and administrators
to de
a
to
that
used
program
pro
velop
technology

of addressing the literacy learning needs of all


children.

A literacy program emerges


In a rural, cooperative
special education
in
New
York, a group of stu
program
upstate

It's not easy trying to learn to read and


write if you're a child with severe
in U.S. public schools today
disabilities

dents demonstrated that literacy acquisition is


possible for even themost severely disabled
children. The eight children ranged in age
from 5 to 11 years old. Only one had a mea
sured full-scale
IQ score, and it was well be
low average.
The remaining
children were
deemed "untestable." The verbal portion of the

IQ testwas inappropriatebecause of the chil


severe
dren's
speech and language
impair
ments, and the performance
portion of the test
was
because
of their severe
inappropriate
physical
impairments.
Seven of the eight children were in wheel
chairs. Six had cerebral palsy, one had spina
disease. Three
bifida, and one a degenerative
of

the children with


had no formal

severe

speech
impair
to communicate.
way
Four children could talk, but unfamiliar
listen
ers had a difficult
them.
time understanding

vide

access

to instruction

and

learning.

The

children were grouped together in a single


classroom
where
and other re
equipment
sources could be pooled.
One of the keys to the success of the pro
gram was administrative
support. Program ad
to use grant
made a commitment
ministrators

funds (from U.S. Public Law 94-142, the


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act),
to equip

the classroom

and train staff. Initially,

high technology in the classroom includedfive


Apple IIgs (a registered trademark of Apple

ments

Computer,

The remaining child had well-developed

Cupertino, CA 95014, USA) computers with


many peripheral devices that provided speech
feedback and allowed the children to use the

speech but delayed

language.

The children had been in four different


types of programs prior to being grouped to
gether.

One

preschool,

had been in a special education


two had been in classes for children

with severe and profound multiple disabilities,

Inc.,

computers

without

keyboards.

Later,

20525

Mariani

Avenue,

having to type on standard


dedicated
communication

devices were added to the pool of high tech


nology.
referred to
Noncomputerized
adaptations,
as light technology, were also used. Light tech

Developing

a literacy

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program

677

Table 1
A primer of technology
High technology
Adaptive Firmware Card (AFC): The AFC is used to adapt software and allow individuals to access the computer
through input devices other than the standard keyboard.
Dedicated communication device: This is a form of high technology designed for face-to-face
communication
by
individuals who are unable to speak. The devices are portable, typically have speech output, and have symbol sets
that can consist of pictures, icons, words, phrases, letters, or some combination. With special equipment, many of
these devices can be connected to a computer forword processing or other classroom applications.
Peripheral devices: These take a variety of forms (e.g., touch screen mounted on monitor or enlarged keyboards).
All are intended to adapt a computer insome way to meet the needs of the child.
Scanning programs: The computer presents an item, or a row of items, one at a time and a single switch is activat
ed to indicate a desired choice. This allows an individual with minimal physical control to use a computer.
Single switch: A device such as a button or a lever completes an electronic circuit when pressed. When used with
a computer, pressing or activating the device equates with a keystroke or multiple keystrokes on the standard key
board.

Speech synthesis or speech feedback: Typically this is produced through an external speaker plugged into a com
into speech to
puter. Many newer computers have internal speakers that translate text and computer messages
provide auditory feedback to the user.
Unicorn Board: A large, touch-sensitive membrane that can be programmed to represent one key (about 18" x
"
24") or as many as 128 keys (1 x 1 ").
Light technology
Communication
boards: Light technology communication boards use the same type of symbols as dedicated com
munication devices. Children using communication boards point with fingers, headsticks, or eyes at words, letters,
or pictures alone or incombination to represent their thoughts to listeners.
Loop tape: A loop tape is best known for its use inanswering machines. The audio tape has no end and typically
holds a message
between 15 and 45 seconds
in length. Used ina standard tape player, the loop tape will run con
isactivated.
tinuously when the machine
Talking switch: A tape recorder is used with a switch so that itcan be turned on and off via a single movement. A
is recorded (e.g., "Turn the page") on an answering machine
message
loop tape that allows it to be played repeat
edly without rewinding.

a means
students with
of
nology
provided
on a moment-to-moment
communication
ba
sis. Pictures,
line drawings, printed words, and
are some examples
recorders
of the light
tape
1
used.
Table
technology
provides definitions
of the technology
used in this ar
terminology
ticle.
More
than the technology
and
important
was
com
administrative
the
overall
support
mitment
of the team of professionals
and para
to find
who
worked
professionals
together
success.
to
As
ways for the children
experience
the classroom
teacher, one of us (Erickson)
a speech therapist, two
and an aide. This classroom
teacher assistants,
staff and other members
of the educational
an integrated,
team provided
child-centered,

worked

full-time

with

program. Therapy goals were


transdisciplinary
across
understood
and carried out by everyone
the day rather than in the more typical twice-a
and classroom
week pullout therapy sessions,
were designed
to be language-rich
activities

678

The Reading

Teacher

Vol.

48, No.

May

and meaningful.
Whenever
students
possible,
at
without
all.
any adaptations
participated
oc
This transdisciplinary
not
did
approach
cur naturally.
The professionals
struggled
through "turf" issues, conflicting
pedagogies,
and divergent
theoretical bases, while holding
onto a common
to the children.
commitment
were held
For the first 2 months,
meetings
twice weekly. Typically
the needs of one child
were
at
each
All of the
addressed
meeting.
team members
shared goals and objectives,
and plans were made
for integrating
them
the instructional
these
throughout
day. During
and plans
meetings,
priorities were discussed,
to train one another were de
for professionals
vised.
an exam
daily lesson plans provide
this integrated
lesson
The
approach.
included not only academic activities, but

The
ple

of

plans
also incorporated
considerations
positioning
the
For
children
with severe
throughout
day.
is
often an im
physical disabilities,
positioning

1995

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portant part of a physical

software

therapy program.

All of the children in this class had four


or five different positions
in which
they need
one
ed to spend time each day. For example,
child had to stand in a support frame, sit on a
and lie
bolster, lie stomach down on a wedge,
on her side on a special mat. Each of these po
sitions helped develop
overall
coordination
and maintain
the integrity of joints and mus
of the positions were more physi
cally taxing than others, so it was important to
match
the position
and activity
carefully.
a child was learning a new and complex
When
because
it
concept,
standing was not possible
was too physically
to
concentra
allow
taxing
cles.

Some

tion on the learning task. On the other hand,


a story was read to the class for pleasure,
and the cognitive demands were relatively
low,

when

the same way, the physical


plans to integrate academics

In much

pist made
direct therapy time. When
the theme
the therapist used
week was insects,

thera
during
for the
a book

insects to motivate
the students to keep
their heads up while
lying prone on elbows.
In the pool, the therapist placed letters on the
to
children
edge of the pool and encouraged
reach for a specified letter. Whenever
possible,

about

the therapist allowed


the children to use com
to
boards
indicate choices
munication
for ac
instead of predetermin
tivities. For example,
for the activities
involved
in a
ing a sequence
the therapist encouraged
session,
to choose
the order in which

the
they

activities.

completed
of goals, the actual
Given
the integration
structure of the class was quite simple. The
cen
morning
began with group time which
tered on calendar
activities.
The children
learned the days of the week, months
of the
and
basic
and
skills.
year,
counting
patterning
to
In addition,
learned
their
they
recognize
stories were being read,
names, attend while
when

respond

called

upon,

and myriad

other

skills. This group time differed from the


in pre
the children
had experienced
groups
vious classes because each child had frequent
to respond
and interact. Time
opportunities
and tech
pressures were kept to a minimum,
was
to
used
alternate
response
nology
provide
modes

when

necessary.
was spent
remainder
of the morning
on individual
off-the-shelf
computers
using
The

sure there was

systematic,
arts and math.
daily
an Adaptive
When
Firmware
Card
needed,
was used, and the computer was programmed
to accept
switch or
input through a single
Board
In
Unicorn
Table
the
(see
1).
general,
children used the same software regardless of
physical
ability and mode of computer access.
in language

were
activities
Group
noons. The most successful

held

in the after

in
group activities
all
acting out favorite books. Because
of the children were disabled,
skits could be
the move
time consuming.
Choreographing
volved

ment of seven wheelchairs


in a small class
room was a feat in itself. In addition,
several
children had to use speech synthesis and loop

tapes (see Table 1) to say their lines, and the


movements

were

in general

slower. However,

each child was provided with an opportunity to

a child could be standing.

therapy
students

to make

instruction

participate

independently.
was another
favorite
Cooking
activity.
in the room, and all the
There was a kitchen
to participate.
children were provided a means
large chart served as a recipe book. Corre
communication
boards were made,
sponding

and children took turns identifying the ingre


and procedures. The children even oper
ated the appliances.
One would hold the mix
er while
another hit a switch that sent power

dients

to it. The children quickly learned that they


could send batter flying by hitting the switch
on and off rapidly. Although
it was messy,
it
was a fun way for children to develop
the mus
cle control
switch with

need to use a
they would eventually
the computer
for communication

purposes.
the day, children had oppor
Throughout
tunities to interact with print. They learned to
see themselves
as competent
and gained cred
within
the
school
The stu
ibility
community.
as readers and writers.
dents were emerging
knew

They

letter names
could

cor
and letter-sound
in
read common words

respondences,
their environment,
text that
could comprehend
was read to them, and could use a different

kind of pencil, the computer!

Initial refinements
and students were proud of their
at the end of that first year,
accomplishments
team was not satisfied.
but the educational
In
Teachers

to move beyond
the game-type
software
and teacher-directed
activities of the first year,

order

Developing

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a literacy

program

some

in the structure

changes
necessary.

were

The

phasize reading
child directed
teacher directed
made

program

teachers

of the program
to em

resolved

and writing activities


that were
constructive
rather than
and reactive. The result was a

and

up of four basic

com

literacy

ponents: (a)writing during calendar time each


morning; (b) directed reading in small groups
or individually with the teacher; (c) use of
software;

computer

and (d) group

activities.

The teachers resolved to emphasize


that were
reading and writing activities
and constructive
child-directed
rather
than

and

teacher-directed

Synthesizer
the screen.
words

as they appeared
in bold print on
The
teacher entered
individual

to be spelled

and controlled

dictated
and an adult
the children
writing,
an
This
to see
students
gave
typed.
opportunity
a good writer
on
the
computer.
composing
Other
activities
involved
group
computer
and
drawing, coloring,
story programs.

A closer

look at two students

A description of the individual participa


tion of two students

reactive.

the number

and total num


type of feedback,
in each lesson.
Group activities were expanded by adding
a modeled
and a group
component
writing
time. A TV screen interfaced with
computer
the computer monitor
allowed
all of the chil
dren to see a single computer.
In the modeled

of repetitions,
ber of words

and

re

the adaptations

quired in order to facilitate their interactive

Calendar time changed beginning with the


in the second year.
to produce
their own cal

first

of school

very
Children

day
were asked
endar report on the computer
in a teacher-directed
ticipating

instead
group

of par
activity.

The children used skills they had learned


throughout
statements

the previous
short
year to write
the weather,
date, and any

about

thing else they thought was important. In file


the children built banks of word cards
boxes,
for irregularly
diffi
spelled common words,
and other spelling words.
cult calendar words,
Directed
reading activities with individu
into the
als or small groups were incorporated
time that previously
had been devoted solely to
computer use. A range of reading
independent
materials
included trade books, basal readers,
a traditional
and computer
programs.
Using
were
the children
basal approach,
taught vo
cabulary

and introduced

to stories. After

read

comprehension
questions
ing, they answered
devices.
verbally or with communication
was strength
The computer
component
through daily use of a computer program
called Spell-a-Word
(Cooper, 1992). This soft
a means
ware provided
for teaching children
in an inter
about spelling and word patterns
active way. The children saw and heard words
ened

spelled and then spelled the words themselves.


As they typed, letters were spoken by a speech

680

The Reading

Teacher

Vol.

48, No.

May

the implementation
of the
learning illustrates
program.
Erica.
Erica, 6, had cerebral
palsy. She

could walk independently but could not speak.


She had a limited command of sign language
when

she started

in the class,

but her physical

impairments made it difficult for her to form


she did not use
complex
signs. In addition,
and
many
signs
spontaneously
frequently
signed under the table or in other places where
a potential
communication
partner could not
see. Erica typed on a standard keyboard
and
seemed to recognize
she
had
letters; however,
a difficult
time completing
tasks. After a few
she started completing
her calendar re
a
standard
port independently
using
keyboard,
a word processing
called Keytalk
program

weeks,

(1986), and her word file.


In the first month
using a Touch Talker

of school,

Erica

(manufactured

began
the

by

Prentke Romich Company, 1022 Heyl Road,


Wooster, OH 44691, USA), one of many ded
icated

communication
for people

devices
who

that provide
are unable
to

output
The
speak or whose
speech is unintelligible.
Touch Talker is a programmable
with
system
a keyboard
of icons and letters. The
composed
speech

on
icons have multiple
meanings
depending
are
the context in which
used
and
the
oth
they
er keys that are selected. For example,
there is
an icon that is a calendar of the month of July.
On top of the calendar is an American
flag and
some fireworks.

Selection

1995

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of this icon during

the word calendar.


group time might produce
the
In morning
activities,
however,
choosing
same
of
the
icon might
Pledge
produce
a
In
the
icon
calendar
exercise,
Allegiance.
in the
the word July. Finally,
represent
might
se
context of relaying a weekend's
activities,
lection of the icon could produce the statement
The
this weekend."
"I went to see fireworks
Touch Talker is faster than a spelling
system
because a single icon, or two or three icons se
in a prescribed
sequence, can produce a
statement.
lengthy
the system quickly. We
Erica mastered
of her success with the Touch
took advantage
Talker and used it in literacy instruction. We
in a variety of books that she read
programmed
lected

to herself
Ini
and to classmates.
repeatedly
a
two
the
selection
of
icons
produced
tially,
on
a
text
Once
of
all
the
single page.
reading
a strong
in reading
interest
she developed
use
we
to
to
the single
teach
her
books,
began
word

functions

to read word

for word

during
reading activities.
Erica was a major contributor
during our
in Table
group activities. The icons and words
of some typical contribu
2 provide examples

Table 2
Erica's

communication

Icons selected

&

via

the Touch

Talker

by Erica:

>

"call"

"mom"

"eat"

Message spoken by Touch Talker:


"Then mom called, 'John it's time to eat.'"
Icons selected

by Erica:

&

"mom"

M
"boy"

Message spoken by Touch Talker:


"Mommy has a boyfriend. His name

"music"

isClint Black."

The icons are from IEP+, a Minspeak Application Program, owned by


Semantic Compaction Systems, and manufactured
by the Prentke Romich
1022 Hey? Road, Wooster, OH 44691, USA.
Company,

directed

tions during group and story times. Erica be


came so skilled that she narrated a class play

based on the big book The Old Oak Tree


(Eggleton, 1987).
had made

Erica
in a class

for children

little academic
progress
with mental
retardation

in the 3 previous
years. In less than 6 months
and literacy-enriched
this technologywith
as a reader
she began emerging
curriculum,
lack of success may
and writer. Her previous
deficits
than
have been due less to cognitive
to an inability to communicate
and
effectively
a
com
When
she
had
available
interactively.
system that could be understood
that was less physically
others
and
taxing,
by
and writing abilities improved.
her motivation
that she could be a suc
Erica demonstrated

munication

cessful

learner.

more
Casey. Casey required considerably
A
than
Erica.
classroom
nonspeak
adaptations
with cerebral palsy, she relied
ing 5-year-old
on a wheelchair
for mobility
and had virtually
use of her hands. The team was
no functional
a way for Casey
to use a
a
but she had
switch consistently,
dependable
response. Casey could respond to
eye-pointing

unable

yes/no

to identify

questions

by smiling

and looking

up for

for
yes and looking down or not responding
no. Undoubtedly,
this interaction
technique
but it pro
limited her language development,
means
a quick and nontaxing
of re
vided
sponse.

Another

means

Casey's

message

was

of response
involved
her
communication
partner
finger spelling;
(e.g., the teacher or an aide) indicated two re
the initial letter of each
sponses by forming
at the hand with the let
looked
hand.
Casey
by
to her choice. She also used
ter corresponding
a variety of eye-pointing
displays on Plexiglas.
interpreted

by follow

ing her line of sight.


calendar time, Casey participated
During
in a variety of ways. Most often, the Unicorn
Board (see Table 1) enabled Casey to produce
on the computer monitor
a written
response
and a spoken response through the speech syn
on the
thesizer with a single touch anywhere
the
board. At other times, she communicated
or
about
the
information
day of the week
to a display on Plexi
weather by eye-pointing
glas.
via a talk
(see Table 1) that her mother
pre
she came to school,
she
daily. When

Casey
ing switch
pared

shared news

from home

Developing

a literacy

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program

681

used a tape recorder and switch to tell us her


news. Before
she went home, a new message
was put on the talking switch so Casey could
tell her family
her day at school.
about
possible, Casey made choices about
she shared via the talking
switch.
an
each
adult recalled
activity of the
Typically,
to indicate with yes/no
day and asked Casey
to share.
she wanted
whether
itwas something

Whenever
the news

were

for
motivating
an
adult
whenever
intently
Casey.
read to her. During directed reading, we asked
that she could answer using
Casey questions
read
the eye-pointing
system. For individual
a
books
with
used
often
ing, Casey
taped
Books

extremely

She listened

screen.

Casey had very different ways of interact


but she was taught
ing than did her classmates,
same
curriculum. During her years in
using the
the class, Casey was unable to type out single
text independently.
How
letters to produce
ever, she could identify a few words on eye
Her most

boards.
pointing
of communication
of initial

sounds,

functional

incorporated
and she was

means

her knowledge
fascinated with

the team decided

that Casey

switch

books. Had

dictable.

to a typical curriculum
should not be exposed
or receive direct instruction until she had a for
mal communication
system in place, we would

on the tape recorder.


teacher di
Group activities were typically
rected, so the language Casey needed was pre
al speller

Casey was not a convention


there was a limit to the expressive

language

available

Because

to her. Any

picture-based

system is less flexible and powerful than the


unlimited

array of messages

that 26 letters pro


boards with
eye-pointing

vide. Consequently,
the staff predicted would be need
vocabulary
were
before groups met. These
ed
constructed
were
with Casey prior
boards
often previewed
to the actual lesson in order to foster her lan
guage

and background

development

knowl

have missed

what

turned out to be a success

ful way for her literacy skills to begin to


emerge.

literacy

Casey's

skills would

not like

ly have progressed to the point they did had


or requirements
to
there been low expectations
a certain set of readiness
skills prior to
or ex
of literacy instruction
the introduction

meet

to literacy-based

posure

What

we

experiences.

learned

that the program was far


recognize
from perfect. In no way were the students pro
We

edge.
in group
Casey also participated
use
a
the
of
switch.
During
through
she frequently
the switch
operated

activities

cooking,
that pro
switch
vided power to the appliances. Talking
as
be
such
those
used
for
es,
daily messages
to
tween home and school,
allowed
Casey
chime in on the repeated lines of books. While
last-minute changes in activities and schedules
did not allow for the construction
of elaborate
boards, talking switches could
be created quickly and provided a means of in
teraction in a variety of situations.
used many
of the same computer
Casey
communication

vided opportunities to reach their full poten


tial. Nonetheless,
they were provided with a
wider range of literacy learning oppor
tunities than they had previously
experienced,
more directly
in their
the tools to participate

much

to ask
and the means
program,
comment
and
about
their
experi
questions
ences with print. Four of the eight children re
to their neighborhood
turned
elementary
educational

schools.

The

intentions

of

the

teacher

and
to use

Card (see Table 1) allowed her to hit a switch

in the class had been


speech therapist
as a preparation
for success in a
the classroom
environment.
less restrictive
Given a low stu
to the tools they
dent-teacher
ratio, access
needed for greater independence,
and expertise

once

of the staff, the students developed skills that

programs as the other children but in different


For example,
the Adaptive
Firmware
ways.
five keystrokes
that
in order to emulate
led to the animation
associated with a letter in
Brown's
ABC's
Charlie
House,
(Random
demonstrated
1984). Casey
through her eye
that she knew

communication

system
pointing
the letters of the alphabet;
therefore,
of the computer use was not to master

682

ters but rather to gain control of the switch and


toward use of scanning
(see
program
Table 1). Scanning
enabled Casey to select in
commu
letters or words
for written
dividual
on
a
nication when
computer
they appeared

work

The Reading

Teacher

Vol.

48, No.

the goal
the let

May

prepared
The

them for success in the mainstream.


has not been easy for any

transition

of the students.

diffi
They have encountered
to
rules
and
school
adjusting
dealing
to adapt and of
that continue
with programs
ten water down curriculum
instead of provid
culties

1995

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

in the stan
ing alternative ways to participate
one of the
dard curriculum. As of this writing,
students who has been in the neighborhood
to the segregat
school for a year is returning

teachers will find that they can meet the chal


the literacy needs of all
lenge of addressing
children.
The following
suggestions may help min

ed center.

imize

the difficulties,
however, we firm
Despite
ly believe efforts to integrate children with se

vere disabilities should continue. For the first


in their lives, these children are partici
in a community
of readers and
pating members
of lit
writers. They are surrounded by models
time

eracy
where

use

and

teachers

in an environment
learning
are held accountable
for acade

that children
it is expected
goals,
will learn to read and write. In the segregated
and contin
classroom
program we developed
ue to study, success was due to the program's

mic

where

to good

resemblance

classroom

instruction.

We have found little that is special in spe


and we have no magical
cial education,
tions in this program. The children were
to do what
the tools necessary
vided

solu

nondisabled
peers have always done daily
more widely
tools and fewer
accessible
an
tations. In
integrated setting, with the
children
tools we provided,
of supportive

with

pro
their

adap
kinds
with

severe disabilities could not only participate


more directly in their own literacy learning
but, more
important, could receive their liter
from teachers trained in read
instruction
acy
ing and writing

methods.

The children in this class were just like the


you see in the special

education

wings

of your own school buildings. They are the


spend their days on "prereading"
seldom
tasks and "life skills" curricula while
are
texts.
the
chil
with
written
They
engaging
ma
to
to
learn
dren who struggle while
trying
a
or
to
scissors
grasp
pencil. They are
nipulate
children who

also the children who are increasingly


showing
classes because of in
up in regular education
and the
creased access to assistive
technology
movement

nationwide
Instead
dren with

toward full inclusion.

of feeling overwhelmed
by chil
severe disabilities
and the technolo

in this paper, regular educators


gy described
should realize
they have a critical missing
piece in the current educational
programming

for children with severe disabilities: literacy


expertise.
from other

and support
that expertise
trained
reading
professionals,

Given

the special education


language
pathologist,
staff, and parents. Given advanced preparation,
light technol
they can assist you in developing
or
in
communication
boards
ogy
programming
into dedicated communi
necessary vocabulary
cation devices. They can also share and support
effective
communication
techniques.
Don't
physical
tion with

equate differences
or means
capabilities

in the children's
of communica

in intelligence,

differences

interest,

or academic

Stephen Hawking,
capabilities.
uses a
famous physicist,
the internationally
and talks and writes
wheelchair
for mobility
device.
via a dedicated
communication
your typical wait time or give
advance knowledge
disabilities
us
of the question(s)
you will ask. Children
devices, whether
ing communication
high or
Increase

students

with

take much longer than speak


light technology,
answer
or ask questions
or
to
children
ing
make comments.
Work
directed

Implications for reading teachers


children

of regu
and frustrations
and reading teachers as they be
gin to teach all children to read and write:
Work
the child's
closely with
speech
the difficulties

lar educators

to reach a balance

of nonspeaking
child-centered

between

teacher

that make

activities

students
activities

needs
vocabulary
to
easier
predict and
a
that can provide

to observe

their progress.
Children
are, like all children, unique in
and skills.
their interests, knowledge,
students with and without dis
Encourage
abilities to interact directly with each other and
with you. Provide training for students without
in how to be good listeners to chil
disabilities
so that you do not be
dren with disabilities,
come a full-time
interpreter.

window
with

disabilities

course in computer use


Take a beginning
that includes work with educational
software.
courses
are typically
These
offered
through
at colleges
schools of education
and universi
and by
education programs,
ties, in continuing
systems. Other assistance may be avail
able from a colleague within your school sys
tem who has a special interest in computers.
school

Contact

the Center

of Literacy

and

Disability Studies for information regarding


continuing

education

opportunities;

Developing

This content downloaded from 165.123.34.86 on Fri, 5 Dec 2014 22:37:36 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

current re

a literacy

program

3
and assessment
search, instruction
strategies;
and other resources. The address is: CB#8135,
at Chapel Hill,
of North Carolina
University

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8135, USA.

is a research

Erickson

assistant

and Disability
North
Carolina
of

Literacy

for
University

at the Center
at the
Studies
at Chapel Hill.

directs
this Center. Erickson
Koppenhaver
at
be
contacted
CB#8135,
University
of
may
at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill,
North Carolina

NC 27599-8135, USA.

References
Coleman,

P.P.

(1991).

lost: A qualitative

Literacy

analy

sis of early literacy experiences of preschool children


with

severe

and

speech

impairments.

physical

Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North

Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Cooper,
Dana
Eggleton,

R.J.

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[computer
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Keytalk [computer software]. (1986). Santa Monica, CA:


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Chapel Hill.
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Light, J., & Kelford Smith, A. (1993). The home literacy


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INTERNATIONAL
READING ASSOCIATION
Literacy ina ChangingWorld:
Choices andChallenges
-

-#-*

North American Conference


on Adolescent/Adult Literacy

16thWORLDCONGRESS
ON READING
Prague, Czech Republic
July 9-12, 1996

For more information,


1-800-336-READ
Outside

February 2-4,1996
Hilton and Towers
Washington
Washington,

call

D.c.

For more
the
contact
information,
Conferences
IRA,
Division,
800 Barksdale Rd., PO Box 8139,
USA.
Newark, DE 19714-8139,

the U.S. and Canada, call


302-731-1600

Telephone:
800-336-READ,
302-731-1600,

IB

684

The Reading

Teacher

Vol.

48, No.

ext. 216 (North America),


ext. 216 (other locations).

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