Balanced Literacy Instruction
for Students with Significant Disabilities

We do not believe that a different curriculum is required in order for children with disabilities to succeed in learning to read and write. We have learned, however, that teachers must attend consciously and thoughtfully to the significant learning differences of children with disabilities in order to make good instruction accessible to these students.”
​-Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver from Children With Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Blocks Way

Resource – Balanced Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities

About this resource

This resource offers research-based instructional approaches and strategies to support literacy development for students with significant disabilities, including students with:
  • cognitive impairments
  • complex communication needs
  • multiple disabilities including deaf/blindness and/or physical access challenges

This content of this resource (replace with name of resource) offers information, strategies and research to support school leaders, teachers, and other specialists working to better meet the literacy and communication needs of students with significant disabilities.

This resource is built on the work of Dr. Karen Erickson, Dr. David Koppenhaver, and Dr. Caroline Musselwhite based on the many sessions and workshops they have provided in Alberta:

  • Karen Erickson, Ph.D., Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill and David Koppenhaver, Ph.D., Appalachian State University led a 5-day intensive course for professionals at the University of Alberta during the summer of 2015. The focus of the workshop was to build capacity of those in attendance to develop literacy skills of children and youth with Complex Communication Needs including those with significant cognitive disabilities and sensory impairment. Most recently, Dr. Erickson presented a number of sessions at the 2015 Inclusive Education Conference.
  • Dr. Caroline Musselwhite is an assistive technology specialist with more than 35 years of experience working with children and adolescents with significant disabilities in a variety of settings. Dr. Musselwhite has written a number of textbooks and “how-to” books on a range of topics, and has also authored many books and software programs for youth with disabilities. She has presented thousands of workshops throughout North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Africa, and is a founding member and Fellow of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

This goal of this resource (replace with name of resource) is to build awareness, share resources, and provide a starting place for school leaders, teachers and other specialists supporting communication and literacy learning for students with significant disabilities.

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