In Literacy Skills Development for Students with Special Learning Needs: A Strength-Based Approach authors Leslie Broun and Patricia Oelwein offer teachers a comprehensive toolkit of strategies for teaching literacy to students with special needs, including those with learning disabilities, autism/ASD, and Down syndrome.
The book introduces teachers, speech and language therapists and literacy coaches/interventionists to the Oelwein systematic whole word approach to sight word acquisition skills. In this unique and effective approach, students learn to recognize orthographic “pictures” or symbols (words) as representing a person/place/idea/movement. Students develop personalized sight word vocabularies through a three-step process of matching, selecting, and naming that engages students’ visual, kinesthetic, auditory and digital skills. This process is ideal for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as well as neurotypical students with reading and communication difficulties who lack phonological awareness because it enables them to organize language for communication through the reading process.
Teachers will learn strengths-based strategies to build skills in the following areas:
• Sight word recognition
• Alphabet and phonics
• Word families
• Grammar and sentence construction
• Reading comprehension
• Composition and creative writing
The Oelwein method for the development of literacy skills is framed in the following key principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL):
• Equitable curriculum
• Flexible curriculum
• Simple and intuitive instruction
• Multiple means of presentation
• Success-oriented curriculum
• Appropriate level of student effort
• Appropriate environment for learning
Grounded in UDL, the strategies presented in the book are accessible, useful and relevant, making them effective for all kinds of learners.
About the Authors:
Leslie Broun spent much of her career working for the Peel District School Board in Ontario as an itinerant resource teacher. In this role, she supported teachers and teaching assistants of exceptional children who are mainstreamed in regular classroom settings. Previous to this, she taught a congregated class of children with autism spectrum disorders for seven years and developmentally disabled adults for three years.
Broun's credentials include a BA, BEd and MEd and a specialist certificate in special education. She has taught additional qualification courses in special education at York University and in developmental disabilities at the University of Western Ontario. Her ongoing professional focus is the development of practical and effective visual learning strategies and materials for teaching literacy and mathematics to children who have ASDs and other developmental disabilities.
Her belief is that, along with an emphasis on the development of communication, social and behavioral skills, the development of academic skills is crucially important for the children with autism spectrum disorders. She saw her role as the creation, compilation, and organization of materials and methods that are practical and cost-effective; materials and methods that aid in curriculum modification and follow a developmental sequence that appeals to the visual learning style of children with autism spectrum disorders.
Leslie is co-author of the book, Literacy Skill Development for Students with Special Needs, and author of the laminated reference guide, Autism Spectrum Disorders: Building Foundation Skills in Mathematics, both published by National Professional Resources, Inc./Dude Publishing.
Patricia Oelwein, a consultant in private practice, worked at the University of Washington in the Down Syndrome Programs at the Center on Human Development and Disability for twenty-five years. The positions she held in the program include teacher in demonstration classrooms, coordinator, and outreach trainer. She has provided specialized training teachers to work with children with Down syndrome and other developmental delays throughout the United States and in twelve other countries spanning six continents. Since 1991 she has been consultant to the Al Nahada Model Schools in Riyadh, KSA.
Oelwein has published numerous research articles and instructional materials, edited Advances in Down Syndrome with Valentine Dmitriev, and wrote Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome. She is co-author, with Leslie Broun, of the book, Literacy Skill Development for Students with Special Needs: A Strength-Based Approach, published by National Professional Resources, Inc./Dude Publishing.