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AAC and Literacy. Sandra Stewart Speech Pathologist Crippled Children's Assoc. May, 1999. Reading, writing, speaking and listening develop concurrently and interrelatedly, rather than sequentially. (Koppenhaver et al., 1991; Maehr, 1991; Teale & Sulzby, 1989).

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aac and literacy

AAC and Literacy

Sandra Stewart

Speech Pathologist

Crippled Children's Assoc.

May, 1999.

Reading, writing, speaking and listening develop concurrently and interrelatedly, rather than sequentially.

(Koppenhaver et al., 1991; Maehr, 1991; Teale & Sulzby, 1989)

“There is consensus that literacy involves a complex integration of cultural, social and psychological processes, as well as linguistic processes, developing from birth onwards (rather than being a sequence of discrete ‘learned’ cognitive subskills taught at school)

Millar, S. & Kerr, J. CALL Centre, 1995

listening speaking reading writing
listening, speaking, reading, writing

Children develop all four abilities concurrently and inter-relatedly when they:

  • see print in their environment
  • observe literate models
  • use print themselves for functional purposes
  • and when they are read with.

Their reading and writing behaviours support the development of listening and speaking and vice versa

Steelman, Coleman & Koppenhaver, 1992

reading writing

“The reading-writing connection occurs in all subjects in school and throughout one’s lifetime in personal communications; therefore, writing across the curriculum and writing for a purpose are essential.”

Steelman, Coleman & Koppenhaver, 1992

important process
Important process
  • “For people who are unable to speak, literacy is an important key to unlocking communication barriers and improving quality of life.”

(ACN, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1996)

  • “Literacy skills are integral to a child’s success in school, a young adult’s transition into the workforce and an adult’s ability to live freely and independently.”

(Yoder & Koppenhaver, 1993 in (ACN, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1996)

important process7
Important process
  • “..no symbol system, no matter how linguistically-based or how many thousands of items it can represent, can compare to the alphabet. With just a small set of letters (for example, 26 in English), any literate individual who is unable to speak can write anything, in any way she or he chooses.”

(ACN, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1996)

“Approximately 70% of individuals with severe communication impairments are significantly behind their peers in literacy learning.”

Koppenhaver & Yoder, 1992

challenging process
Challenging process
  • limited research
  • specialised assessment
  • specialised intervention
  • to help AAC users develop literacy skills we need to collaborate

Several authors have identified numerous factors affecting the acquisition of literacy that are more to do with physical, social and psychological barriers in the environment than with an individual child’s linguistic or cognitive factors.

  • may not be positioned to seeeveryday models of literacy
  • often reliant on others to initiate storybook sessions and to choose books for them.
  • limited literacy opportunities
  • fewer opportunities to participate actively in story reading sessions (for example, ask questions, comment, predict what will happen next, retell, act out)
  • fewer opportunities for repeated readings
  • limited access to writing materials
  • reduced expectations relative to literacy learning
models of literacy
Models of literacy
  • Eg. seeing someone ….
    • look up a phone number in a book
    • writing a note
    • reading a book for pleasure
    • reading notices/memos
    • using a calendar/schedular
    • reading a recipe book
    • reading traffic signs
limited opportunities
Limited Opportunities
  • “Koppenhaver & Yoder (1980) reported that in the classrooms of three adolescent boys with Cerebral Palsy, 30% - 40% of the instructional time allocated to literacy each day was devoted instead to non-literacy activities such as toileting, waiting, or booting up a computer.”

(In Beukelman and Mirenda, 1992, pg245)

repeated readings
Repeated Readings
  • A number of researchers have observed that children use repeated readings as an opportunity to help them become more dominant in the storybook interactions

(Cazden, 1983; Samuels, 1985; Snow & Ninio, 1986; Teale, 1982)

  • “Adult users with congenital disabilities who learned to read as children have consistently identified the high expectations and encouragement of family members as having a major role in their success (Kopenhaver, Evans & Yoder,1991)”

(In Beukelman and Mirenda, 1992)

creating a literate person
Creating a literate person

There are three main ingredients needed to help create a literate person;

  • print in the environment

(labels and models)

  • access to writing and reading

(play with books, draw, pretend to be readers & writers)

  • interactive storybook reading

(read frequently, relate to experiences, contribute in some way)

Steelman, Pierce Coleman & Koppenhaver, 1992

  • Use a vocabulary set derived from the target story throughout the day (that is, for multiple activities)
  • Facilitate repeated readings
  • Provide opportunities to see themselves as literate
  • Provide opportunities to participate
opportunities to participate
Opportunities to Participate
  • access to vocabulary
    • For example, “turn the page, act it out”
    • to choose books
  • access to turn pages independently
  • access to single repeated lines
repetitive line hierarchy
Repetitive Line Hierarchy
  • alone
  • at the end
  • at the beginning
  • in the middle

Musselwhite & King -DeBaun,1997


Determine a 12 word

vocabulary that can be used

generically to facilitate

participation during story

listening time

books for learning
Books for Learning
  • selected for repeated readings
  • focus for activities
  • serve as the core of the theme
  • development of literacy related extension activities
  • communication/language learning goals

(Musselwhite & King-DeBaun, 1997)

books for enjoyment
Books for Enjoyment
  • enrich the curriculum
  • help develop world knowledge
  • support the current ‘Book for Learning’
  • not offered for repeated readings unless requested by students

(Musselwhite & King-DeBaun, 1997)

adaptations colour coding books
AdaptationsColour-coding books
  • RED Repeated line book with symbol
  • BLUE Symbols affixed
  • GREEN Signs affixed
  • YELLOW Sturdy books
  • WHITE Programmed into device

Musselwhite & King DeBaun, 1997

adaptations independent book listening
Adaptations-Independent book listening
  • taped books
  • books on video, slides or filmstrip/audiotape projectors
  • via AAC device
    • colour coded pages (symbols not required)
    • shrunk pages
    • step scan
    • Liberator™ notebooks and macros and

minserts to create novel stories

  • computerised books (paired use - one AAC user with single message to turn the page and more able bodied student operating the mouse)
  • Contextual Factors
    • environmental expectations
    • opportunities for literacy learning
    • quality and quantity of literacy experiences
  • Literacy Skills
    • criteria based measurement tools
    • standardised tests
    • observations
    • adapted materials for AAC users
  • Tools
    • materials/devices/software/equipment enabling AAC users to read and write

(ACN, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1996)


“Literacy doesn’t just happen, it is cultivated over time…”

“Literacy learning cannot be allotted to one hour per day within the school curriculum nor delegated to only the classroom teacher, reading teacher, special educator or speech pathologist; it is a team effort, to be accomplished throughout the day, at school and at home.”

Steelman, Coleman & Koppenhaver, 1992

  • Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P.
  • Blackstone, S. Augmentative Communication News. Vol. 9, No.3., Monterey,1996
  • Blackstone, S. Augmentative Communication News. Vol. 9, No. 4., Monterey,1996
  • Koppenhaver, D. & Yoder, D. Literacy issues in persons with severe speech and physical impairments. In R. Gaylord-Ross (Ed.), Issues and Research in Special Education, vol. 2 in Minspeak Conference Proceedings, 1992.
  • Millar,S. & Kerr, J. Augmentative Communication and Literacy: The Sail Kit Approach. CALL Centre, University of Edinburgh, AGOSCI News, 1995 (originally published in Widening the Perspective ISBN 1898942 07 1.
  • Musslewhite,C. & King DeBaun. Emergent Literacy Success: Merging Technology and Whole Language for Students with Disabilities. Creative Communicating & Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference Publication Clinician Series, Birmingham, 1997.
  • Steelman, J., Pierce Coleman, P., & Koppenhaver, D. Minspeak: A Tool for Developing Literacy. The Carolina Literacy Center, University of North Carolina, Minspeak Conference Proceedings, 1992.
  • Center for Literacy and Disability Studies. literacy@acpub.duke.edu
  • The Literacy Project, CALL Centre, University of Edinburgh, 4 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LW.
  • Glennen, S. & DeCoste, D. Handbook of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Singular Publishing Group Inc., San Dieago. 1997. (Chapter 8 The Role of Literacy in AAC)
  • Kelly, J. & Friend, T. Hands-on Reading, Mayer-Johnson Co., Solana Beach, 1995