Increasing Communication Skills Through Literacy for Students with Complex Needs

Presented by: Kim Kulasekaran, M.S. / Sarah Wakabayashi, M.S., CCC-SLP / Candy Cooper / Don Johnston, M.S.

About the Webinar

I’m Kim, the Lead Special Education Teacher at the William E. Carter School in Boston—a school specializing in educating students, ages 12-22 years, with severe special needs.

I love teaching my students (most of which are non-verbal) and believe they deserve to access and connect to the world around them. Communication is essential to making those connections.

That’s why our team chose as its underlying focus to increase communication skills—targeting a greater variety of communicative functions. Experience has taught us that a rich curriculum centered on literacy is the best vehicle for increasing communication in our students.

The challenge was a lack of resources and materials that were age-appropriate, engaging, individualized, and accessible. We constantly had to find books, write our own lessons, create materials, and find ways to measure progress to accomplish our goals. We believed there had to be a better way.

We found it just before the pandemic hit at ATIA 2020. That’s where we heard Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. Caroline Musselwhite speak about Comprehensive Literacy for ALL, and we saw Readtopia® for the first time. One year and multiple Readtopia Thematic Units later, we’re on a better path to improve communication through a literacy curriculum we had only dreamed of!

Join Sarah (our fantastic SLP!) and me as we share:

 

  • How we created a community of learning around communication
  • Our Cognitively Demanding Task Matrix (CDTM) a framework to guide instruction and support student progress
  • The missing piece—Readtopia! How these curriculum resources turned out to be a dream come true in our school.
  • Key elements of Readtopia (including leveled graphic novels and math).
  • Video from our classrooms—how these resources boosted engagement for students
  • Tips for using Readtopia through remote/eLearning with Jamboard and other apps

About the Presenter

Kim Kulasekaran, M.S.

is the Lead Teacher at the William E. Carter School in Boston’s South End—a school specializing in educating students, ages 12-22 years, with severe special needs.  In addition to working at the Carter School, she is a member of the Boston Public Schools Assistive Technology Team, supporting students with complex communication needs and augmentative and alternative communication needs across the district.  Kim uses Readtopia with her Carter students both remotely and in person.

Sarah Wakabayashi, M.S., CCC-SLP

has been a speech language pathologist in the Boston Public Schools since 1996.  In addition to working at the Carter School, she is a member of the BPS Assistive Technology Team, supporting students with complex communication needs and augmentative and alternative communication needs across the district. New to Readtopia, Sarah has been working collaboratively with lead teacher Kim Kulasekaran — using the curriculum with her Carter students, ages 12 to 22, both remotely and in person.

Candy Cooper

Educational Support Specialist

Don Johnston, M.S.

is the CEO and Founder of Don Johnston Incorporated.