Welcome to Part 2 in a 3-part series about why literacy is critical for students who use AAC. In Part 1, I introduced accessible ways to teach students alphabetic knowledge. If you didn't catch it and want to know more, read it here.
Let's talk about beginning writing — why it's important, what matters, and how to get started. Due to the nature of their impairments, individuals who use AAC tend to experience a significant lexical gap -- where a person's receptive vocabulary exceeds their expressive one.
In her talk, Karen Erickson encouraged us not to be afraid of this gap. Why not? Because writing is how we close it! And writing is not just the act of picking up a pencil. Writing is the act of composing your thoughts independently, by whatever means possible.
For many of us, the thought of helping our students learn to write is daunting. But let's set that fear aside and begin at the beginning. How do we learn to do new things? We do them! And that's pretty much the summary of how to introduce writing and support beginners.
As you get started, consider these things:
Here Alec is writing about ducks (see picture at right). Here's how his teacher responded:
"Ohh. Look! Are you writing about the ducks? That makes sense because I see the letter D right there. And look! The word lake starts with the letter L. Are you also writing about the lake?"
Do you know what research tells us about students who become conventional readers and writers? They have adults in their lives who think they can. It takes years for typically developing children to write conventionally. It may take your AAC user even longer. Let's agree to be patient. It's worth it!
For more information, visit the Reading Avenue overview page.
In the last instalment of this series, I'll introduce how to begin supporting students in their spelling skills by combining two sound-based strategies. Stay tuned!