2003 Conference Proceedings

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Delva Culp, M.A. CCC
University of Texas at Dallas/Callier Center
1966 Inwood
Dallas, Tx.75235
Phone: 214-905-3137
Email: Culptx@aol.com

Literacy knowledge is a valuable asset in the 21st century world (Roth and Baden, 2001). Literacy refers to the ability to understand and generate printed words. However, children who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) often lack the necessary skills to succeed in a traditional literacy training program. As well, children who use AAC often receive less exposure to printed materials and less literacy instruction than typical children, thus increasing their risk of reading problems (Koppenhaver, Evans, & Yoder, 1991).

In addition to the general value of literacy knowledge, written communication skills offer persons who use AAC systems a means to enhance their communication skills and to bypass some of the limitations confronted in face-to face interactions (Koppenhaver, Evans, & Yoder, 1991; Light and McNaughton, 1993). "We must help children who use AAC systems make meaningful connections between 'spoken' language and print. We cannot ignore the mounting evidence that suggests we have deprived nonverbal children of their language and literacy potential." (Scherz and Hart, 2002).

Parents and teachers often recognize the importance of literacy development for children who use AAC, but are confused about how to make appropriate modifications to literacy experiences and programs. In recognition of parents' and teachers' need for information and ideas on facilitating literacy in children who use AAC, the University of Texas at Dallas/Callier Center has developed a website providing such information in a parent/teacher friendly format. The purpose of this presentation is to share some of the literacy facilitation information provided on the website, discuss the potential of the web to assist in parent and teacher training, and offer other resources designed to help parents and teachers facilitate literacy in children who use AAC.

In order to provide participants with parent and teacher friendly literacy facilitation strategies, the presenter will summarize the sections of the Callier Center ACT Literacy Project Website:

  1. Introduction for Parents and Teachers- discussing the importance of literacy for children who use AAC and the potential role of parents and teachers.

  2. First Steps Toward Literacy- considering the importance of attitude, expectations, modeling, and available/accessible literacy materials.

  3. Where to Start:Levels of Literacy- helping parents and teachers to identify the child's literacy skills and start at a level where the child will experience success.

  4. Reading with the Child Who Uses AAC- suggesting types of materials, options for child participation, use of multi-modal experiences, and strategies for relating books to the child's real-life experiences.

  5. Book Suggestions/Modifications- reviewing modifications of twenty popular/readily available childrens books for children using AAC at four different levels of literacy development.

Example for an Emergent Reader:

Spot looks at Shapes by Eric Hill (G.P Putman's Sons 1986)

Subject Index: Shapes

First Reading: Program one button to say, "Spot looks at shapes." Have the child participate by pressing that button to introduce each page in the book. Then the adult reads the words on the page.

Vocabulary/Subsequent Readings: Program a button on the communication device with each phrase (and related picture) below. Have the child "read" each page. If necessary, the adult can read the page first.

Spot looks at shapes.
Spot's rubber ring is a round shape.
Spot's drawing pad is a square shape.
Spot's kite is a diamond shape.
Spot's flag is a rectangle shape.
Spot's starfish is a star shape.
Spot's triangle is a triangle shape.
Spot's pond is an oval shape.

Reading Comprehension: Ask the child . . .
What was a square shape?
What was an oval shape?
What was a star shape?

Supporting Activities:
Help the child find different shapes in the house/classroom. Make labels for the shapes you find.
Help make the child his/her own drawing pad. Using the pad help your child draw and write the names of shapes.

Related Writing Activities:
Help your child draw shapes. Out to the side write the names of each one. Help the child draw shapes in shaving cream, finger paint, wet sand, or pudding.

Alternative Media: Discover Spot on VHS

  1. Other Activities to Facilitate Literacy Development- suggesting ten fun-filled literacy games for parents and teachers to play with children.

Letter Sound Grab Bag:
Materials: A set of cards on which you've written some letters of the alphabet. (Start with just a few letters; add more letters as your child learns more.) What to do:

  1. Put a few letters having sounds your child knows into a paper bag.

  2. Take turns pulling letters out of the bag. When the child draws the letter, have the child name the letter on his/her communication board/device, and the adult will make the sound that goes with the letter. When the adult draws the letter, the adult keeps the letter hidden and says the sound. The child names (or guesses at) the letter. Gradually, try to add more letters in the grab bag.

  1. Writing with the Child who Uses AAC- offering writing facilitation strategies including manipulatives, modifications/access, and multi-modal approaches. For more detailed information, contact www.callier.utdallas.edu/ACT/res.html.
Furthermore, the presenter will discuss the potential of using the web to provide training for parents and teachers of children who use AAC. Specific strategies used to develop a parent/teacher- friendly website will be discussed. Feedback provided by parents and teachers who have used the website will be discussed. Finally, participants will be provided with other available resources for parents and teachers interested in facilitating literacy skills in children who use AAC.

Literacy development is indeed critical to children who use AAC. As primary figures in a child's environment, parents and teachers have multiple opportunities each day to facilitate literacy in these children. AAC teams must thus explore all possible effective methods to provide parents and teachers with encouragement and literacy facilitation strategies.


Cazden, C. (1983). Adult assistance to language development: Scaffolds, models, and direct instruction. In R.P. Parker & F.A. Davis (Eds.), Developing literacy: Young children's use of language (pp. 3-18). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Good, T., Brophy, J. (1984). Looking in classrooms (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Koppenhaver, D., Coleman, P., Kalman, S., & Yoder, D. (1991). The implications of emergent literacy research for children With developmental disabilities. American Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing, 1, 38-44.

Koppenhaver, D., Evans, D., & Yoder, D. (1991). Childhood reading and writing experiences of literate adults with severe speech and motor impairments. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 7, 20-33.

Light, J., Binger, C., & Smith, A. (1994). Story reading interactions between preschoolers who use AAC and their mothers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 10, 255-267.

Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (1993). Literacy and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC): The expectations and priorities of parents and teachers. Topics in Language Disorders, 13, 33-46.

Pierce, P., McWilliam, PJ. (1993). Emerging literacy and children with severe speech and physical impairments (SSPI): Issues and possible intervention strategies. Topics in Language Disorders, 13, 47-57.

Roth, R., Baden, B. (2001). Investing in emergent literacy intervention: A key role for speech-language pathologists. Seminars in Speech and Language, 22, 163-173.

Scherz, J., Hart, P. (2002). Language, literacy, and AAC: Time to move forward. ASHA Leader, 7, 17.

Snow, C., & Ninio, A. (1986). The contracts of literacy: What children learn from learning to read books. In W.H. Teale & E. Sulzby (Eds.), Emergent literacy (pp. 116-138). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Co.

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