Literacy Instruction for
Students with Significant Disabilities

“If all children are to learn, all teachers much teach everything.
When teaching literacy, this includes working with words, self-selected reading, shared or guided reading, and writing.”

Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver


Who are conventional readers and writers?

Emergent literacy refers to all of the actions, understandings and misunderstandings of learners engaged in experiences that involve print creation or use (Koppenhaver & Erickson, 2003, p. 283). These experiences are not only necessary but closely related to later literacy outcomes (Justice and Kaderavek, 2004).

Conventional literacy refers to reading and writing that follow the form, content, and use of standard conventions (Koppenhaver, 2000). It is built on discoveries and understandings made during the emergent literacy phase of development.

According to the National Reading Panel report (NRP; NICHD, 2000), in order to produce and understand conventional literacy an individual must develop phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension of connected text. Conventional literacy requires the simultaneous and integrated use of these skills to independently construct a message that can be accurately interpreted by other conventional readers (Koppenhaver, 2000). –(from Research-Based Practices for Creating Access to the General Curriculum in Reading and Literacy for Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities. Karen Erickson, Ph.D., Gretchen Hanser, Ph.D., Penelope Hatch, Ph.D., Eric Sanders, M.S./CCC-SLP, 2009.)

does the student2

 

A student is moving towards a more conventional understanding of literacy if they:
  • know most of the letters most of the time
  • engage actively during shared reading
  • have a means of communication and interactions
  • understand that writing involves letters and words

It is important to remember that answering ‘yes’ to all of the above questions does not necessarily mean that is student is at a conventional literacy level but indicates that they are ready to move to the conventional set of interventions.


Where can I learn more?

Literacy, Assistive Technology, and Students with Significant Disabilities. Karen A. Erickson, Penelope Hatch, and Sally Clendon, Focus on Exceptional Children, Volume 42, Number 5, 2010.

Research-Based Practices for Creating Access to the General Curriculum in Reading and Literacy for Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities. Karen Erickson, Ph.D., Gretchen Hanser, Ph.D., Penelope Hatch, Ph.D., Eric Sanders, M.S./CCC-SLP, 2009.