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Using Assistive Technology to
Enhance Literacy Programs in
the Primary Grades
Presented by Julie Coiro, Educational Consultant
This list of resources
can be accessed online at
The Big Picture
Comprehensive Literacy: the integration of comprehension strategies,
language conventions, elements of composition, and literacy aspects into
a cohesive curriculum (see chart below for more specific information).
There is also a great article, Scholastic
Endeavors: Literacy, in which the authors summarize how a comprehensive
literacy model can be adapted to meet the needs of learners with speech
and language disabilities.
Emergent Literacy: "an early development of understanding that abstract symbols have meaning and that people use these symbols for the communication of ideas; developed as a combination of readiness skills and life’s early experiences with reading and writing" (A.J. Koenig, 1992). The presenters of a professional development session entitled Promoting Literacy for Individuals with Severe to Moderate Disabilities describe the change in the definition of literacy behaviors for chidren with disabilities and states that the current belief "that emergent literacy should be introduced at an early age to all individuals regardless of the severity of their disability. All individuals can benefit from these experiences though the benefits are different".
Phonological Awareness: "an understanding of the sounds of language, including rhyming, blendning, segmentation, deletion, and substitutions in words, syllables and sounds" (SERC's Literacy Terminology, last updated October, 2000). The chart below outlines the sequence of good instruction to foster phonological awareness. To be most effective, it is important that instruction begins at the auditory level and gradually moves to a more visual level of understanding.
Assistive Technology: The Technology Related Assistance for Persons With Disabilities Act of 1988 defines assistive technology as "any piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individual with disabilities." The goals of assistive technology include the enhancement of capabilities for independence, removal of barriers to performance, and encouraging a sense of community and inclusion with others. For more information, you can read the summary article entitled An Overview of Assistive Technology or the article by United Cerebral Palsy of New York City entitled What is Assistive Technology?
Universal Design: The Center for
Applied Special Technology (CAST) defines universal design as "a new
paradigm for teaching, learning, assessment, drawing on new brain research
and new media technologies to respond to individual learner differences."
This type of environment provides multiple and modifiable representations
of the information being presented, means of expression and control, and
means of motivating and engaging students. You can read more about
Universal Design for Learning by visiting CAST's website.
Potentials of Technology for ALL Literacy Learners
Technology has the potential to make texts accessible and make communication possible for all children.
Other Products for Special Needs Learners:
Emergent Literacy Success: Merging Technology and Whole Language for Students with Disabilities (Dr. Carolin Musselwhite and Pati King-deBaun) (can purchase at Amazon.com)
Articles and Ideas
Evaluating Software for Students with Special Needs