Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication

Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication

Autonomous communication requires literacy. Our goal must be to allow all learners to express what they want to communicate.  Classroom and ancillary staff are taught how to structure daily literacy instruction for learners with significant disabilities and complex communication needs (CCN).

This professional learning opportunity consists of two separate trainings, one focused on emergent and the other conventional literacy. Emergent and conventional literacy trainings are offered statewide or through the Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication.

This course is offered in Michigan through collaboration with the course authors, Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. David Koppenhaver

Why Try Something New?

For many educators, their academic preparation did not teach or prepare them to provide literacy instruction to individuals with CCN.  This professional learning opportunity is designed to help educators learn the skills and strategies to teach all learners how to read and write.

Students with significant disabilities can and do learn to read conventionally when provided with daily comprehensive literacy instruction.  When determining if an individual is an emergent or conventional learner, we begin by asking the four questions represented in the image.

  • If you respond yes to all four questions, the individual is a conventional learner and the conventional literacy strategies should be utilized.
  • If you respond with no to one or more of the questions, the individual is an emergent learner and the emergent literacy strategies should be utilized.


Examples of literacy interventions based on student needs
Literacy interventions based on student needs. View the full written description.


Evidence Base

Comprehensive Literacy: Online Content

Are you ready to get started? Comprehensive Literacy online courses are offered in three locations:

  • Project Core - Offers professional development modules and resources focused on the implementation of universal core vocabulary and the emergent literacy strategies.
  • Dynamic Learning Maps Professional Development (DLMPD) modules - Offers professional development modules and resources focused on the implementation of the conventional literacy strategies. 
  • Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication courses using the Alt+Shift: AAC Pathway in EduPaths - Offers three courses focused on comprehensive literacy: "Block 6 - Developing Literate AAC Users", "Implementing Emergent Literacy Instruction" and "Implementing Conventional Literacy Instruction."

The Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication courses, along with the Project Core and DLMPD modules, allow teams and individuals to start learning at any time about how to support students with complex communication needs as they become autonomous communicators through literacy. 

Each course includes facilitator guides for teams and groups to get started together. Guided questions or activities to pair with the modules and a short feedback survey for participants and facilitators are provided.

Stay In Touch

The Alt+Shift newsletter provides updates on our professional learning opportunities, informs readers of upcoming events, and highlights resources for people who work with students with disabilities.