Children with complex communication needs (CCN) have a combination of intellectual and developmental disorders that limit language, literacy and speech abilities. For daily communication and learning, this heterogeneous group of children often relies on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Without the possibility to read and write, communication through AAC is frequently constrained to relatively general forms, such as body signals, manual signs, and graphic or tactile symbols (either on paper or in an AAC device). Developing literacy skills enhances the opportunity to communicate spontaneously on emerging topics and to communicate thoughts in a more precise way. Additionally, being literate gives children the opportunity to participate in text-based learning.
In this project we focus on the development of emergent literacy. Emergent literacy refers to the precursors of reading and writing that develop in early childhood, prior to formal literacy instruction. Little is known about the development of emergent literacy in children with CCN, effective instructions to teach these children emergent literacy skills and the current support they receive on this topic. Therefore, the purpose of the project is to provide scientific insights into (a) the emergent literacy development of children and teens with CCN, (b) skills and actions needed to teach literacy to these children based on the predictors for emergent literacy for this group of children and feasibility for teachers.
The project will consist of four studies: 1) a review of the literature about predictors for emergent literacy of children with CCN, 2) a systematic evaluation of the current teaching practices of emergent literacy to children with CCN on schools for special education in the Netherlands, 3) a cross-sectional study to test if the predictors found in the first study can be confirmed for Dutch children with CCN and 4) the construction and testing of instructional strategies in the classroom.