Attendees of Dr. Gretchen Hanser’s October 6th presentation
described her as “fantastic”, “very engaging”, “passionate” and “very
knowledgeable.” The workshop was organized by the Assistive Technology and Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AT/AAC) team and was titled "Beginning Writing and Shared Reading for Students with Complex Communication and Physical Challenges"
Dr. Hanser addressed tools and strategies to ensure that our students with complex communication and motor needs receive literacy opportunities just as their typical peers do. Participants included teachers, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists,
certified occupational therapy assistants, assistive technology specialists, and
administrators. All were inspired by the many ideas that can be used right away with students including alternative pencils, communication boards, Shared Reading tools,
PowerPoint adapted books, and the Tarheel Reader
accessible book website. Dr. Hanser also modeled the use of access strategies including Partner Assisted Scanning and Eye Gaze that can be used to develop
reading and writing skills.
Participants had the opportunity to practice using
Partner Assisted Scanning with a Print Alphabet Flip Chart (see image to the left; one form of an alternative pencil). These strategies are powerful, in part, because of the interaction that they promote. Dr.
Hanser shared both light and high tech tools for writing, and shared many excellent
resources for both writing and shared literacy including: Center for Literacy and Disability Studies
Following the event, Dr. Hanser teamed with CRP staff, Dr. Sam Sennott (Universal Design Lab - Portland State University
) and school district staff to visit a classroom and work with a student. The focus of this hands-on follow up was for the team to practice
using the strategies and tools that Dr. Hanser shared in an actual classroom environment. Both the general education and special education teachers were excited to learn new strategies to support literacy and communication.
Dr. Hanser and Dr. Sennott worked with a
student that has complex communication needs and demonstrated how the team can
start exposing the student to letters and print. Dr. Hanser demonstrated
techniques to make literacy accessible and motivating to the student. Through
the use of PowerPoint slide shows, she incorporated some text with engaging
photos of the student to make it personally meaningful. The student was able to
use switches to advance the slides and was able to participate in a partner
reading activity with a peer. Dr. Hanser shared a variety of literacy related
resources with the team and provided them with the momentum to implement these techniques
with their students.
To learn more about the tools and strategies mentioned in this article, feel free to contact Deborah, Ruth, Katie, or Mary Beth with our AT/AAC team