Why is literacy development important for individuals who use AAC?
Research tells us that literacy skills are important for this population as they allow e.g.: Generation of novel messages (e.g. spelling a word that's not available on a communication display) for written or face to face communication.
What can be done in the classroom and at home to help children who use AAC participate more actively in reading activities? Here are some suggestions from experts in the field of AAC (including Jennifer Kent-Walsh, 2003).
· Make print materials accessible (e.g., add tabs to storybooks, move book shelves so that books are accessible, or introduce books on CD-ROM)
· Repeated readings of familiar stories allow children to become more involved in the activity. They can anticipate what will happen next and use their vocabulary to read along or comment on the story.
· Ensure the child has access to their communication system(s) during story time.
· Ask appropriate open-ended questions related to the book and to the child’s experiences.
· Pause and wait expectantly during story reading to allow the child to participate.
·Re-phrase the story using familiar words that are already part of the child’s communication system.
· Model use of the child's AAC system while reading (e.g., point to AAC symbols on the child's communication board or speech output system while reading).
· Respond appropriately to all communication attempts made by the child.
· Personalize the stories (e.g. Velcro the child’s photo into the book).
It is also important to ensure that children who require AAC have greater access to early writing experiences by:
· Incorporating print in play activities (e.g., make a list for the grocery store).
· Adapting standard writing materials so that children with motor impairments are able to use them.
· Providing early access to computers (e.g., early writing and drawing experiences).
· Completing related writing activities (e.g. book reports, reflections).
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Resources: Check out the following information and approaches for literacy development…
MEville to WEville This curriculum is the first ever research-based literacy program that meaningfully and systematically integrates reading, writing, speaking, augmentative communicating, and listening for elementary students with disabilities. It incorporates lessons for learning new words, word wall words, vocabulary development, writing, and in-context literacy development. Ask your ACS clinicians to see a copy. http://www.ablenetinc.com/Home/Curriculum/MEvilletoWEville/tabid/132/Default.aspx
Route 66 An Internet based literacy service providing reading and writing instruction to adolescents and adults who are just beginning to read, particularly those with significant disabilities. http://www.route66literacy.org/?gclid=CMmM4oGe6ZgCFSHaDAodUku41A
A LL (Accessible Literacy Learning) A curriculum designed to teach reading skills to students with disabilities (e.g. autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and developmental apraxia).
Tango to Literacy is a comprehensive, literacy instructional program specifically for the Tango speech-generating device. Students learn how to use core vocabulary, develop phonics skills, and build language and conversation skills. http://blink-twice.com/tango/product.html?pid=15
Nonverbal Reading Approach This provides nonverbal students a strategy to sound out words. It also provides a way for teachers to assess if the student can read targeted words. http://education.gsu.edu/physicaldis/mnon.htm
Strategies for Promoting Literacy With Students Who Have Physical Disabilities http://education.gsu.edu/PhysicalDis/strategies/