Monday, January 25, 2016

Supporting a Literacy Group Using ASbyS - Dr. Caroline Musselwhite

I was thrilled to discover that Dr. Caroline Musselwhite was using an ASbyS to support her Literacy Group so I shamelessly begged her to write a guest blog post. Here 'tis .... 

Most Fridays our Literacy Group meets, with students who are home-schooled because of medical issues.  Students all use AAC, and have significant mobility and access needs.  This year, we have been on a world tour, studying history, music, culture, and foods across several countries.  During December, we compared holiday traditions for several of the regions that we had studied.  In conjunction with our study, we read several texts (Hanukkah, Winter Holidays, Diwali), did a candle science experiment, and completed a word web for the word LIGHT.  

But the most fun part of our morning was making . . . Potato Latkes!  We used the animated Step by Step activity to support this, with great success.  Students were focused and enjoyed both giving and watching the instructions.  They also loved eating the latkes!  I’ve highlighted a few features that were especially helpful.

Key Features That Supported Learning:
  • Text First – I am a big fan of showing text BEFORE you show any graphics.  This activity shows text, and the graphics (photos, drawings, symbols) are not shown until AFTER the next selection is made.  This means that adults can control reading, then confirming what has been read through graphics and animation

  • Range and Quality of Graphics – Graphics used in this activity included high-quality drawings of people and objects, plus photographs (e.g., frying pan), and symbols (e.g., PCS symbols) to extend learning.  The combination of graphics and animation offered excellent comprehension support.

  • Animations – We used the Don Johnston switch interface, so that students could be in charge of the animations.  The switch interface provided empowerment, and the animations supported meaning and engagement.

  • Well-Selected Sound Effects – Sound effects were very helpful for lengthening student engagement, and were well chosen to add ‘zip’ to the activity, without being annoying.

Caroline Musselwhite has a wealth of clinical information. Check out her work and the work of her talented colleagues at  and

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©2016 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator