As library workers, we want all students to be literate: to be able to find, select, evaluate, use, communicate, manage, and create information. For various reasons, students with disabilities have more difficulties gaining literacy. Their senses may filter or distort incoming information, their brains may process information in different ways, and their bodies may have difficult expressing their knowledge. As information professionals, we should provide physical and digital resources, including equipment, that help compensate for these differences. Here is representative research about literacy from the lens of disabilities. Among the findings, inclusive literacy and oral fluency stand out.
Cassell, J. (2008). Virtual humans: A tool for the study and teaching of language and social interaction. Paper presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, Boston.
Virtual characters and digital tutors are helping children and adults develop advanced social and language skills that can be tough to learn via conventional approaches. Children with autism can develop advanced social skills by interacting with a "virtual child" that they might not develop by hanging out with real children or teachers.
Davidson, M. M., Kaushanskaya, M., & Weismer, S. E. (2018). Reading Comprehension in Children With and Without ASD: The Role of Word Reading, Oral Language, and Working Memory. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1-18.
For students with Autism Spectum Disorder, oral vocabulary was the strongest predictor of reading comprehension.
Flewitt, R., Messer, D., & Kucirkova, N. (2015). New directions for early literacy in a digital age: The iPad. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 15(3), 289-310.
Well-planned iPad-based literacy activities stimulate the motivation and concentration of children with disabilities. They also offered rich opportunities for communication, collaborative interaction, independent learning, and for children to achieve high levels of accomplishment. In some cases, this led teachers favorably to re-evaluate the children’s literacy competence, and enabled children to construct positive images of themselves in the literacy classroom. Practitioners particularly valued the opportunities iPads afforded to deliver curriculum guidelines in new ways, and to familiarize all students with touch-screen technologies.
Hebbeler, K., & Spiker, D. (2016). Supporting young children with disabilities. The Future of Children, 185-205.
High-quality instruction in general education classrooms is a major factor in good educational outcomes for children with disabilities, and for their successful inclusion from preschool to third grade. Moreover,
improving the quality of general education benefits all children, not just those with disabilities.
Hulme, C., Nash, H. M., Gooch, D., Lervåg, A., & Snowling, M. J. (2015). The foundations of literacy development in children at familial risk of dyslexia. Psychological Science, 26(12), 1877-1886.
Reading development depends critically on oral language skills, which is lacking in children at familial risk of dyslexia. Therefore, early language education should not focus just on phonological and phonic skills but on broader language skills.
Ostrosky, M. M., Mouzourou, C., Dorsey, E. A., Favazza, P. C., & Leboeuf, L. M. (2015). Pick a book, any book: Using children’s books to support positive attitudes toward peers with disabilities. Young Exceptional Children, 18(1), 30-43.
Children with disabilities tend to interact socially less than typically developing peers. Reading can help develop social skills. Representing children with disabilities in reading materials is very important for children with disabilities and their peers. Through book reading and discussion, librarians and other teachers can promote disability awareness leading to greater understand.
Shargorodsky, J., Curhan, S. G., Curhan, G. C., & Eavey, R. (2010). Change in prevalence of hearing loss in US adolescents. JAMA, 304(7), 772-778.
Hearing loss is a common sensory disorder, affecting tens of millions of individuals of all ages in the United States. In school-aged children, even slight hearing loss can create a need for speech therapy, auditory training, and special accommodations. Mild hearing loss in young children can impair speech and language development and lead to decreased educational achievement and impaired social-emotional development.