2005 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2005 Table of Contents 


EMERGENT LITERACY FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH SEVERE/PROFOUND MULTIPLE DISABILITIES

Presenter(s)
Elizabeth S. Rush, MA, CCC-SLP, CPM
Director, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Services Murdoch Center
Butner, NC 27509
919-575-1692
919-620-7515 (FAX)
Email: libbyrush@aol.com

Conventional approaches to service delivery for individuals with severe or multiple developmental disabilities have not included literacy instruction. Trends towards teaching functional skills excluded literacy since it was thought that clients would probably never read a newspaper or write even a grocery list. As the interpretation of what is functional has changed, as understanding of communication has broadened and as technologies have advanced, the importance of literacy for those who are profoundly handicapped has become apparent. Persons working with adults and children with severe/profound developmental disabilities have realized that literacy skills can greatly enhance the likelihood that the identified needs of the client can be met. To provide opportunities for independent leisure skills, functional communication, academic success and viable employment, use of technology supports for literacy were explored and addressed. Technologies, from single message voice output devices to computers, were used effectively to support clients learning functions and concepts of print and then assist in using those literacy skills for academic success, leisure time activities, in the augmentative communication system and in employment situations. Technologies were also utilized to develop and make materials for use in literacy instruction and activities. These materials have potential for use with the augmentative communication system and in leisure, school and work situations. Both professionals and families should consider approaches and strategies used to support acquisition of literacy skills.

As structured literacy activities were introduced to persons with severe cognitive disabilities, characteristics of literature that appeal to those individuals were identified. Based on those attributes, books were selected or written that suit the needs of persons with severe/profound developmental disabilities. To support the development of receptive communication skills, literacy instruction utilizing symbols with printed words and reading of simple books and story telling were used effectively for individual and group activities. To encourage expressive communication, literacy activities were designed to use a variety of books, environmental print and assorted technologies. Development and use of literacy kits based on published books and instructor written books were used successfully to support emergent literacy skills. To assure that individuals acquired leisure, academic, communication and vocational skills that were functional; traditional and nontraditional approaches to literacy instruction were employed. Technology such as digital cameras, scanners and computers were used to create both hard copies of books as well as virtual books and literacy activities. From books with sensory adaptations to props used to stimulate interest and participation in the reading process, technologies were utilized to develop creative materials for literacy learning.

Both light and high technologies were effectively applied to literacy learning. Use of single switch access to literacy activities on the computer supported learning of a multiplicity of concepts including categorization and association, which support effective use of dynamic display communication systems. Literacy skills led to opportunities to independently access stories and games using individual communication systems or computers. Many individuals with severe/profound disabilities employed graphics or symbols as their form of "text." The acquisition and use of symbols for both "reading" and "writing" were supported by light and high technologies. Literacy skills and computer use supported learning success and employment prospects. Technology supports for literacy learning aided in providing the necessary requisites to meet the leisure, communication, academic and vocational needs of individuals with severe/profound, multiple developmental disabilities.


Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2005 Table of Contents 


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.