Amanda Bock & Karen Erickson
Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Learning to read with comprehension requires that students acquire and integrate an increasingly complex set of skills. Students with severe disabilities are often seen as incapable of mastering and integrating the skills required for reading with fluency and comprehension, a presumption that results in decreased access to comprehensive reading instruction. This article reports on one effort to provide comprehensive literacy instruction for students with severe disabilities. Specifically, it reports results of a qualitative exploration of instructional practices and student engagement in two self-contained special education classrooms as teachers implemented a comprehensive literacy program. The MEville to WEville Start-to-Finish Literacy Starters program reflects a research-based instructional framework that balances skills-focused instruction with meaning-focused instruction, focuses on interaction and communication, and emphasizes the application of new skills and understandings. As the two teachers in this study implemented the program, their instruction became increasingly student-centered, interactive, comprehensive, and balanced. The results of this study illustrate how students’ interest, enjoyment, contributions, and cognitive engagement increased as teachers differentially embraced and became more comfortable over time with MeVille’s comprehensive literacy framework.