Evidence-Based Literacy Practices: for individuals with moderate or severe disabilities

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I love learning about literacy especially with the student population that I teach at school (students with moderate to severe disabilities). I am currently reading a book called, "Effective Literacy Instruction for Students with Moderate or Severe Disabilities" written by Susan R. Copeland and Elizabeth B. Keefe.


Copeland, S. R., Keefe, E. B. (2007). Effective Literacy Instruction for Students with Moderate or Severe Disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

This post and a series of posts will be featured on this book and how we as special education teachers can put best practices in literacy into place.
This will include:
1. Word Recognition Instruction
2. Fluency
3. Reading Comprehension
4. Vocabulary Development
5. Written Communication
6. Supporting Literacy with Assistive Technology
7. Organizing Literacy Instruction
8. Literacy for Life


Providing best practices in reading is crucial to all studnets. Even more so when working with students with moderate or severe disabilities, this may include students with Autism. For many years, educators in "our" field (special education) were told to teach our students a set of subskills and to keep teaching them (ie abc's, sounds) in that order until mastery. So at the high school level, you might see students still learning the A, B, C's or colors because they haven't "mastered" that skill yet.

Then in the 70's came with the introduction of teaching functional skills to our students. Functional skills included survival skills and skills to help students function as an adult or to work on skills to get a job. This practice helped broaden the set of skills that was being taught to our students with severe or moderate disabilities. What we now know is that our students learning is not always linear so we shouldn't rely solely on mastering basic skills and not give them the opportunities to learn more advanced reading, writing or math skills.

We want to make learning and teaching a balanced approach and although those basic skills are necessary and sometimes appropriate to teach, we know that our students are not always linear learners and we should provide high expectations for them to learn and achieve more complex skills. As I read through this book, I want to share the information with you to help you provide best practices in your teaching.

Identified by the NPR (National Reading Panel; 2000) the following are components of effective reading instruction with the addition of oral language:

1. Oral Language: understanding the sound system of a language
2. Phonological Awareness: ability to recognize and manipulate units that make up spoken language
3. Phonics: knowledge of the relationship between letters and their associated sounds
4. Fluency: the ability to read text accurately and at a reasonable rate
5. Vocabulary: words you understand and use in listening, speaking, reading, and writing
6. Text Comprehension: the understanding the meaning of printed words

From reading the first few chapters of this book, here are some ideas for:

Creating Rich Literacy Learning Environments for all Students

Research has clearly indicated that placing students with moderate or severe disabilities in the general education setting benefits them. Such gains include: increased learning, increased engaged time, improved social and play skills and high quality IEPs. There has been no research that suggest students with moderate and severe disabilities gain and educational benefits from segregated educational placements.

Ideas on how to create a rich literacy learning environment for all:
1. Engage students at higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy
2. Brain-based teaching
3. Differentiated instruction
4. Multiple modalities (think multiple intelligences)
5. Cooperative learning


Tune in next time when I discuss the next chapters from this book.

1. Word Recognition Instruction
2. Fluency
3. Reading Comprehension
4. Vocabulary Development
5. Written Communication
6. Supporting Literacy with Assistive Technology
7. Organizing Literacy Instruction
8. Literacy for Life









Copeland, S. R., Keefe, E. B. (2007). Effective Literacy Instruction for Students with Moderate or Severe Disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.


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