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Episode #174: Supporting Language and Literacy For Children With Complex Communication Needs with Dr. Elizabeth Biggs

In my continued effort to bridge the gap between research and therapy, I had a great discussion with Dr. Elizabeth Biggs, assistant professor of special education. We discuss the power of Literacy in human connection. Even for children with complex communication needs, the need for literacy starts at birth (cue the baby shower gifts of everyone’s favorite books), and it never stops!

In a study tracking around 40 families through the pandemic school year (20–21), Dr. Biggs and other researchers checked in on their journey of supporting their children’s literacy and language learning.  While many families expressed aspirations for their child’s communication progress, a significant portion didn’t prioritize literacy, perceiving their children as not ready or simply not giving it much thought.

Their research found that confidence in literacy acquisition varied greatly, often depending on the support from providers and teachers. They also looked at concerns regarding literacy, especially concerning the acquisition and utilization of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems, with only a single family reporting a positive experience.

Literacy is  reading, writing, speaking, listening, and expressing—each learned in intertwined manner and contributing to meaningful human connections. Dr. Biggs encourages a family-centered approach in your therapy whenever you can,  emphasizing the need to equip and support families in nurturing literacy skills in their children. Ultimately, as Dr. Biggs states in our conversation, “Literacy is for ALL kids, not just some kids”.

Do you like episodes like this? Do you want to hear more about recent research and how you can implement it in your therapy room? Leave a review and let me know!

#autism #speechtherapy

Today’s Guest:

Elizabeth E. Biggs, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. Biggs was a special education teacher on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico for several years before starting her academic career. Her direct experiences in the field have helped her bring an applied lens to her work and research, which is focused on supporting social, communication, and language/literacy outcomes for children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities who use or would benefit from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). She has published widely, with approximately 50 research articles and book chapters on those topics and having received early career research awards from organizations such as TASH and AUCD. At Vanderbilt, she also teaches undergraduate and graduate-level classes focused on inclusive education, reading development, and general education access for students with intellectual disability, autism, and multiple disabilities.

What’s Inside:

  • When is literacy and when does it start?
  • Understanding literacy in families, analyzing the research.
  • Who can learn literacy and language skills?
  • How can providers support learners and their families with literacy?

Mentioned In This Episode

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