You are currently viewing an archived page from the AAC-RERC II (2003-2008) web site. New content is available at the web site for the AAC-RERC III (2008-2013) at

AAC-RERC header image

R1-A: Literacy Support Technologies for AAC Users


The goals for this project are to:

  • Develop, implement, and evaluate a beginning literacy instructional program (based on the recommendations of the National Reading Panel) that is accessible to individuals with speech and motor impairments.

  • Implement a light tech version of this instructional program (in partnership with Mayer-Johnson) and evaluate use of the instructional program to teach literacy skills to students who require AAC;Implement this program in state of the art technology (in partnership with Dynavox Technologies) and evaluate use of the technology with students who require AAC;

  • Develop and evaluate the effectiveness of web-based resource materials to support parents and educational personnel who will use this literacy instruction program.


Progress to Date

To date we have completed the following tasks on this project:

  • We have developed the literacy instruction curriculum. The curriculum includes assessment activities as well as instruction in the following skills: It incorporates:

    • Sound blending

    • Initial phoneme segmentation

    • Letter-sound correspondences

    • Vocabulary building

    • Single word decoding

    • Shared reading activities

    • Reading simple stories

    • Reading comprehension

    • Direct instruction to build basic skills such as phonological awareness skills and decoding skills; as well as

    • Numerous opportunities to use these skills in meaningful reading experiences.

  • We have implemented and evaluated the curriculum using a multiple baseline design with students (ages 3-15) who have significant speech impairments and use AAC and who are not yet reading. This research is currently in progress. To date, all participants have demonstrated gains in their phonological awareness skills, letter sound correspondence skills, and single word decoding skills; they have all increased their participation in shared reading activities. Many have learned to read and understand simple texts independently.

  • We are currently working on the development and evaluation of the high tech version of the curriculum, in partnership with Dynavox Technologies. This literacy instruction software is data-base driven. The software:

    • provides systematic data collection

    • provides reports of student progress

    • supports the instructor in goal setting

    • generates appropriate instructional materials individualized to the learner's needs

    • adjusts instruction automatically based on student performance

  • We have developed a webcast to support parents and educational/rehab professionals in implementing literacy instruction with students who require AAC.


Next Steps

The next steps on the project are as follows:

  • Complete the evaluation of the literacy instruction curriculum

  • Finalize the curriculum and disseminate a hard copy version in partnership with Mayer Johnson Inc.

  • Complete the development of the state of the art technology and evaluate use of the technology with students who require AAC in partnership with Dynavox Technologies.

  • Develop and evaluate the effectiveness of the web-based resource materials that support parents and educational personnel who will use this computer-based instructional technology.



A free webcast to supprt parents and professionals in implementing literacy instruction with individuals who require AAC



Light, J., McNaughton, D., Weyer, M., & Karg, L. (2008). Evidence-based literacy instruction for individuals who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A case study of a student with multiple disabilities. Seminars in Speech and Language, 29, 120-132.

Light, J. & McNaughton, D. (in press). Accessible Literacy Learning: Evidence-based reading instruction for individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other disabilities. San Diego, CA: Mayer Johnson

Light, J. & McNaughton, D. (in press). Meeting the demands of the curriculum for conventional and advanced readers and writers who require AAC. In G. Soto & C. Zangari (Eds.). Practically speaking: Language, literacy, and academic development for students with AAC needs. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Fallon, K. A., Light, J., McNaughton, D., Drager, K., & Hammer, C. (2004). The effects of direct instruction on the single-word reading skills of children who require augmentative and alternative communication. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 47, 1424-1439.

Millar, D.C., Light, J.C., & McNaughton, D. (2004). The effect of Direct Instruction and Writer's Workshop on the early writing skills of children who use augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 20, 164- 178.



Light, J. & McNaughton, D. (2007). Evidence-based literacy intervention for individuals who require AAC. Presentation at the 2007 ASHA conference, Boston, MA. (click for download)

Light, J., Drager, K., & McNaughton, D. (2008). Building language and literacy skills with children who require AAC. Presentation at the 2008 convention of the American Speech Language Hearing Association, Chicago, IL.

Duke Univ. | InvoTek, Inc. | Penn State Univ. | Children's Hospital Boston | Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln | Oregon Health & Science Univ. | State Univ. of NY, Buffalo