Presuming competence at Camp ALEC

I really can’t find the words to express my excitement over Camp ALEC, which will be offered this summer at Variety Camp and Developmental Center in Philadelphia July 27-August 2 for the first time.   I think it boils down to one over-reaching concept — presuming competence.

All too often, children and adults who use AAC to communicate are presumed to be incapable of learning to read and write.  Quite simply, this is a tragedy.  I cannot image life without printed words.  Literacy gives us access to so much — romance, travel to unimaginable worlds, connection to loved ones far away, life-long learning, employment, independence, and more.  For me, there is nothing more thrilling than diving into the pages of a book or more liberating than firing off a feisty email.  Reading and writing are experiences that many of us take for granted.

Camp ALEC presumes competence.  Literacy activities will be spearhead by Drs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver, internationally recognized experts in the field of literacy and disability studies.  Campers will arrive for the week eager to open books and pick up pens — although they may not look like the books and pens many normally envision.  Campers will work with educators all week to participate in assessments to determine their strengths and weakness in the areas of word recognition, reading comprehension and listening comprehension to help determine which areas require the greatest attention in reading intervention.  Some of our campers will have only basic letter recognition skills and emerging phonemic awareness.  Others are seeking strategies to improve critical thinking skills and expand written expression abilities to prepare them for the rigors of college.  Regardless of their level, they are presumed to have the ability to — and right to — access to the power of written language.  We already have campers registered from as far away as Colorado, Michigan and Ohio.

And it’s never too early!  There is a great deal of reluctance to begin literacy instruction with nonverbal children who are in the earliest stages of communication.  I love this article: It not only drives home the importance of early literacy intervention for beginning AAC learners, but it shares real classroom strategies.

To learn more about Camp ALEC, visit where you can find links to the camp brochure and registration form.  For questions, feel free to contact me at


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