Emergent Literacy Instruction

I’m often asked about literacy instruction for students who use AAC. This is an area that is so close to my heart.  It’s why I do what I do. It’s why my friend Gina and I partnered with Drs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver to create Camp ALEC and why we’re headed into our 6th year of camp.  Unless AAC users can write [with the 26 letters of the alphabet], they are limited to communicate with the symbols we’ve programmed on their speech-generating devices.  That’s not nearly enough.

We hosted an amazing three-day workshop on conventional literacy in Cleveland, Ohio in March 2019.  In response to demand, Karen and David graciously offered to conduct an emergent literacy workshop! It’s ideal for educators, speech-language pathologists. administrators and related professionals concerned with supporting communication and literacy with these students. Parents are also welcome to attend.  Please check out the details below.  I hope you can join us.

As a side note, for those professionals who have asked how they can obtain the hands-on, advanced training that’s offered each summer at Camp ALEC, attending this workshop is an excellent first step.

Comprehensive Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities

October 14-15, 2019
Sundial Beach Resort & Spa
1451 Middle Gulf Drive
Sanibel, Florida 33957
8:30am-4:00pm daily (Registration at 8:00am)

Registration Details
Fees: $200 before August 13, 2019
$275 after August 13, 2019
Includes: Course, continental breakfast and lunch daily

To register, visit: https://campalec.regfox.com/complit-march2019

This presentation will offer an instructional framework and practical approaches to address the literacy learning needs of students with significant disabilities including complex communication needs. The focus will be on comprehensive approaches to emergent literacy with an emphasis on application and use rather than skill mastery. This presentation will include videos and work samples that help demonstrate that it is possible for students with complex needs to develop critical early literacy and communication abilities.This course is open to any and all interested educators and related services personnel concerned with supporting communication and literacy in these students. Additionally, parents are encouraged to attend.
At the end of this session, participants will be able to describe:

  • three or more distinctions between emergent and conventional literacy instruction.
  • three or more critical conditions of successful beginning literacy and communication instruction.
  • three or more ways to integrate symbolic communication intervention into emergent literacy instruction.


Dr. Erickson is the David E. and Dolores (Dee) Yoder Distinguished Professor of Literacy and Disability Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where she serves as the Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and is a Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences. She earned a Ph.D. in Special Education and Literacy in 1995 from UNC. A former special education teacher, she has focused much of her scholarly work on children with significant disabilities, particularly those who are unable to use speech as a primary means of communication. In recent years, her collaborative scholarship has led to the development of Tar Heel Reader (https://tarheelreader.org/), an open-source, universally accessible online library of books for beginning readers; the Dynamic Learning Maps Professional Development resources for teachers of students with significant intellectual disabilities (http://dlmpd.com/); and Project CORE (http://www.project-core.com/), a comprehensive implementation program, supports, tools, and training resources for the delivery of universal core vocabulary and augmentative communication.

Dr. David Koppenhaver is a Professor in the Department of Reading Education and Special Education (RESE) at Appalachian State University (ASU). He earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in 1991 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). A former middle grades language arts teacher, he holds NC teaching certification in reading, middle grades language arts, and elementary education. His research focuses on literacy in children with significant disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, complex communication needs, and multiple disabilities. In 1990 he co-founded the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at UNC and in 2002 was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Queensland in Australia. His current research projects include studies of visual attention to print in young children with Rett syndrome, interactive shared reading in children with significant disabilities and complex communication needs, writing in adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders, and reading abilities of adolescents with Williams Syndrome.

Conference and Lodging

Sundial Beach Resort & Spa
1451 Middle Gulf Drive
Sanibel, Florida 33957 http://www.sundialresort.com
(239) 472-4151 Reservations: (866) 565-5093

Rates: One Bedroom Suite: $159 / Two Bedroom Suite: $219 Room
Block Code: Camp ALEC Literacy Conference
Room Block Deadline: September 13, 2019

The Sundial Beach Resort and Spa offers suites with equipped kitchens and expansive living/dining areas. Suites may accommodate 2-6 guests comfortably. Please verify specific accommodations (number of beds, etc.) when making reservations for parties of two or more. Each suite has a

$15 resort fee per night to access their amenities


Contact Gina Cunningham M.A. Ed. ATACP Phone: (248) 761-8759 or
Email: campalecinfo@gmail.com