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Glean new insights into special education from case studies and articles developed by our interdisciplinary team.

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10 Top Tips for New Special Education Teachers

10 Top Tips for New Special Education Teachers

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Date: September 6, 2022

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Readtopia Adds Differentiated Math Lessons to 25+ Thematic Units

We are thrilled to announce integrated math lessons for dozens of Readtopia’s thematic units! With instruction across multiple subject areas, including math, Readtopia is the only special education reading curriculum that schools need to help learners reach new heights. Read on to learn the benefits of Readtopia’s integrated math lessons and see lesson samples from […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Math, Product Updates, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: August 30, 2022

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New Teacher Support for Readtopia: Thematic Unit Introduction Videos

Readtopia keeps getting better. The Readtopia development team is thrilled to announce a new curriculum component—thematic unit introduction videos. How do the introduction videos enhance Readtopia’s thematic units? What information do they cover? Continue reading to find out. Plus, take a sneak peek at the introduction video for the Westward Expansion thematic unit. What is […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Date: August 12, 2022

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NASA Scientist Featured in New Readtopia Thematic Unit

Readtopia is now 30 units strong! Building Wings has launched a new Readtopia thematic unit called Making Dreams Come True. It is anchored by the original reader, “Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist.” Making Dreams Come True is Readtopia’s first upper elementary unit about space. Why did the Readtopia team decide to feature Diana Trujillo? How […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Date: July 28, 2022

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Press Release: Don Johnston’s Curriculum Division Forges New Company, Building Wings™

Specially-Designed Literacy Instructional Materials Focus on Needs of Special Educators and Their Students Volo, IL – January 12, 2022 – Don Johnston, Inc.’s curriculum division has formed a new company, Building Wings™ to expand its comprehensive literacy curriculum to focus on the needs of teachers working with students with autism and other complex needs. Thousands of […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles, Sticky

Date: January 12, 2022

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Texthelp and Don Johnston Incorporated join forces

On behalf of everyone at Texthelp and Don Johnston Inc., we are very happy to announce today that both of our companies are coming together to work as one. We have worked in parallel in the edtech sector for decades. We both support equality and inclusion of all people, especially individuals with dyslexia and many […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life

Date: January 10, 2022

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Press Release: Don Johnston Incorporated Joins Texthelp Group

The addition of Don Johnston Inc.’s leading product suite, expertise, and skill set will expand Texthelp’s leadership in helping individuals better understand and be understood WOBURN, MA – January 10, 2022 – Texthelp, a global leader in literacy and accessibility technology, today announced that they will acquire the Education Technology Division of Don Johnston Inc., a leading assistive […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date:

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New Readtopia Thematic Unit—Fact or Fiction anchored by The Wizard of Oz brings inquiry to the special education classroom

Readtopia® is on a roll. Thousands of special educators now have access to the just-released thematic unit, expanding Readtopia to 27 units—each containing 6-8 weeks worth of instructional content. This new unit is one of the growing selection of upper elementary units, which make Readtopia appropriate for students with complex needs ranging in age from […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Product Updates, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: November 12, 2021

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Negative Behaviors with Autism: Why it Happens and Eight Ways to Help

Each school day, just before circle time, the kindergarten boy ran out into the hallway and pulled his classmate’s belongings out of their cubbies and onto the floor. His teacher tried everything she could think of to make it stop, but nothing worked. She was exasperated. Mo Buti, advocate and instructional expert for people with […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Learning Is For Life, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: October 4, 2021

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Engaging Special Ed Classrooms with Video: Mike Byrne’s Quest to Bring the World to Students

The classroom lights dim. Students fall quiet as a strange and desolate terrain fills the screen. We’re in Iceland, our video host Don Johnston tells us, as we enter what appears to be a cave. “There’s only one place in the world where you can go inside a volcano,” he says. “It’s here. At Three […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: August 25, 2021

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Using Reflective and Tell Me Questions as a Part of Shared Reading Instruction

This article was originally published by Beth Poss at Lessonpix.com 2021. Shared Reading is much more than just a read aloud. This evidence-based strategy focuses on the interactions between adults and learners as they read with the purpose of building language and literacy skills.  During shared reading, adults explicitly model reading behaviors and engage learners […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: August 16, 2021

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Building Communication through Literacy for Students with Intensive Disabilities—The inspiring story of Carter School

“Meaningful, purposeful communication is at the heart of learning to read and write. Students who learn that they can use reading and writing to investigate areas of interest, share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, or interact with new people, understand that the primary purpose of literacy is communication.” -Dr. Caroline Musslewhite, assistive technology specialist and […]

Author Name: Josh Maglasang

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: May 14, 2021

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New Readtopia Thematic Unit— Mysteries and Mummies anchored by King Tut

Readtopia® is on a roll. Thousands of special educators now have access to the just-released thematic unit expanding Readtopia to 25 units—each containing 6-8 weeks worth of instructional content. This new unit is one of the growing selection of upper elementary units, which make Readtopia appropriate for students with complex needs ranging in age from […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Learning Is For Life, Product Updates, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: April 28, 2021

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Delivering Leveled Access to the Curriculum: Readtopia’s Laura Cuthbertson

When Laura Cuthbertson was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. But it wasn’t until she became close to a family member with complex needs that her path was made clear and she decided to pursue a job as a paraprofessional in a special education classroom. It was there, working with […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: March 31, 2021

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Addressing the Most Diverse Learning Needs: Allison Dennis, Readtopia’s Differentiation Architect

Allison Dennis’ passion for special education is homegrown. As a child, she admired her mother’s work as a preschool teacher for students with significant cognitive and physical disabilities, and later in life, as an Inclusion Specialist. So it was no surprise that Allison followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a special education teacher herself. […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: March 1, 2021

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Bringing Stories to Life: Jerry Stemach, Readtopia’s Chief Storyteller

In our Readtopia author series, we profile members of the Readtopia team and share how their unique experiences and skills shape Readtopia’s instructional resources for special education and autism classrooms.When I first met Jerry Stemach, I instantly recognized that there’s something special and disarming about him. He carries an insatiable curiosity that is instantly apparent […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: February 5, 2021

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The View from 2025

A lot has been said about 2020, but what I think about is the view when we look back from 5-10 years in the future. In many ways, 2020 illuminated the issues that were already present in our society and our educational system. The pandemic brought them to light and then accelerated them. Impact on […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Tags: Learning Is For Life

Date: December 17, 2020

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New Readtopia Thematic Unit — Bodies that Work

The Readtopia® Team is creating some very powerful content and resources for special needs classrooms. Thousands of special educators now have access to the just-released thematic unit for middle and high school classrooms. The theme, Bodies that Work will introduce students with complex needs to biology concepts (like how hearts work), while close reading lessons […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Product Updates, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: December 2, 2020

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New Readtopia Thematic Unit — A Story of Survival anchored by The Swiss Family Robinson for Upper Elementary

Readtopia® is on a roll. Thousands of special educators now have access to the just-released thematic unit for upper elementary students. The theme, A Story of Survival teaches students that there are always challenges in life. It takes tenacity to overcome those challenges. Thematic Unit Resources & Instructional Components The thematic unit includes a Teacher […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: September 15, 2020

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Readtopia at Home: Supporting Students with Complex Needs

Thinking back to February 2020—it seems like an entirely different world. In a mere matter of weeks, COVID-19 has flipped the fabric of your day upside down. Your teaching has long since been uprooted, and now you’re left wondering what to do for your special education class. For your students with complex needs—each of whom […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, eLearning, Learning Is For Life, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: April 10, 2020

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eLearning and Inequity—Why Districts are Turning to Accessible Technologies

eLearning came like a stranger in the night. Many educators walked out the door one day to find that school was canceled the next. Plants and even classroom pets were left in classrooms—like the stories of ancient villages who left so suddenly, their pots were still burning on the fire.  Now, everyone is awakening to […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Tags: Assistive Technology, Co:Writer, eLearning, Google for Education, Learning Is For Life, Learning Tools, Unviersal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: April 7, 2020

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Comprehensive Literacy Instruction Without the DIY— How one special education teacher restored balance in her classroom and life

When people ask me why I became a special education teacher, I tell them that I always knew I would be a teacher. I imagined teaching English in a general education setting. By the time I reached college, my dream took shape for very personal reasons. Someone close to me was in need of extra […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, Learning Is For Life, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: February 5, 2020

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Teachers In Crisis: Why Special Educators are Leaving and What You Can Do About It

There’s a crisis happening in our special education classrooms. If your career is in education, you’re probably aware of it. If it’s in special education, you probably feel it on a daily basis. The problem, of course, is burnout. Many factors contribute. Endless hours, even more endless paperwork, helicopter parents, an endless stream of new […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: January 27, 2020

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How I (Finally!) Challenged My Special Education Students

As special education teachers, we hear a lot about changing expectations in our classrooms. About how we’re going to move students from one place to another throughout the school year. I feel I can speak for many teachers by saying that is a very difficult thing to do. A common frustration with special education is […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: November 11, 2019

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Strong Special Education Resources Showed What was Possible for my Students

Jeanmarie Jacoby was a special education classroom teacher for more than 30 years, and can attest that teaching reading to students with complex needs was one of the biggest struggles she ever faced. Constantly behind, overwhelmed and playing catch up, she was searching for a way to get ahead. She needed help. That’s when longtime […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, Product Updates, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: October 18, 2019

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Teaching Writing Didn’t Work For My Kids with Complex Needs…Until I Tried This

Growing up, Jenay Prytula always wanted to work with kids. In her Freshman year of college, she got the opportunity to volunteer in a classroom with students who had physical and cognitive impairments. She simply fell in love with working with those kids. “My general education peers thought special ed was easier because we had […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Writing Curriculum

Date: October 2, 2019

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Re-Defining the Special Education Classroom at MacArthur Middle School

Abbey Lynch walks over to a table and offers her hand to a smiling, eager student who takes it to point at her AAC device indicating the answer to a particular question. Lynch, a special education teacher at MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights, IL, just finished a lesson around the novel Frankenstein with her […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: September 5, 2019

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WE Teach — Teaching Special Education—a most important job!

Over the last five years, I’ve visited dozens of special education and autism classrooms. In meeting with teachers, I learned a few things that I feel are important to address: By and large, teaching special education is a calling and brings fulfillment and meaning (“I just fell in love with working with the students”) Not […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Writing Curriculum

Date: August 30, 2019

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The Brain in a Jar: Lessons to Open Up Writing in the Special Education Classroom

Imagine waking up to find you’re a foreigner in your own body, and you suddenly can’t communicate as you used to with the people you love. What would you do? How would you adapt? How would you survive? This was the scenario that greeted Jean-Dominique Bauby in December 1995. The brilliant French journalist and editor […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Writing Curriculum

Date: August 28, 2019

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Jackson Pollock and a Boy Who Couldn’t Write-Understanding Human Expression and Potential

Oil on canvas, pencil on paper, what can we say about the value of expression? What can we learn from the greats and apply to our educational programs—even at the earliest developmental stages?  In 1948, in the midst of his legendary Drip period, Jackson Pollock took some oil-based paint, launched it at a large piece of fiberboard, and […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Product Updates, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Writing Curriculum

Date: June 27, 2019

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Social Emotional Learning Comes to Readtopia

Readtopia is on a roll filling a much-needed void in middle and high school special education classrooms. Our development team is pushing forward with new thematic units and features that give teachers the resources they need to do their best work ever! Summer brings new growth to Readtopia® with the release of a new Thematic […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Product Updates, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: June 17, 2019

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Why Writing Matters

“Ahhh, and that is what it is all about! First behaviors change and slowly beliefs change….this student is truly not only becoming a writer but also learning how to work through other emotional challenges… It is the mini-successes along the way that are celebrated to get to the big goals!”-Ruth Ziolkowski, President at Don Johnston […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Writing Curriculum

Date: May 6, 2019

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Top 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Special Education Reading Curriculum

Your curriculum and the accompanying resources shape everything that happens in your special education classroom(s) for years to come, so making the right decision on curriculum may be the most important decision you make this year. What criteria will you use to evaluate your curriculum choices? We encourage you to compare your options directly. Below […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Articles

Tags: Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: March 14, 2019

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The Teacher Who Chose to Stay: Laura Cuthbertson

In the summer of 2017, Laura Cuthbertson had a chat with her husband. The subject was a familiar topic all couples cover from time to time: future work plans. As much as she loved her job and the kids in her self-contained classroom, Laura was a bit tired of the commute since the couple moved into their […]

Author Name: Ben Johnston

Categories: Articles

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: January 10, 2019

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Making Reading Meaningful — A Teacher’s Journey

Special Educator, Carrie Ponitz, didn’t choose Readtopia. Her administrators brought it into the district, but Mrs. Ponitz quickly embraced the materials when she saw how quickly her students connected to the content. Reading time used to be filled with groans, now her students are even excited to take home the books and read them to […]

Author Name: Ben Johnston

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Reading Curriculum, Readtopia

Date: December 7, 2018

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I’ll See it When I Believe It

As a student growing up with dyslexia in the 1950s, most people had very little hope for me. Not much was known about dyslexia back then other than what people saw. What they saw was a troublemaker who couldn’t read. I heard that I was just lazy. I’m sure they would have believed in me […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Articles

Tags: Dyslexia & Dysgraphia, Learning Is For Life, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: May 2, 2016

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They Can’t Write, Let Them be Authors

It’s easy to look at a writing sample like this and draw conclusions. The letters aren’t fully formed. There are no identifiable words. There is no clear message. A conversation with the author would likely reveal a lot more. An entire story may even unfold about this “writing.” That story is heart of the message. The rest […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: June 24, 2014

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First Author Effect — Writing Beyond Expectations in New York City

A few weeks ago, I visited New York City schools to see first-hand the excitement they were generating with First Author Curriculum. New York City has a writing initiative made famous by Staten Island’s school turnaround article featured in The Atlantic. Like many other districts, they see how writing cements learning across subjects. Writing is […]

Author Name: Gina DiSalvo

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Writing Curriculum

Date: March 19, 2014

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First-Time Author Stories

“I’m an Author” … with First Author™ Meet some first-time authors from Warren Woods Middle School and Bovenschen School in Warren, Michigan as they share their excitement about what they’re doing with the first and only writing curriculum for students with complex needs — First Author. Antonio is an Author … with First Author Meet Antonio — a bright author from […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, First Author, Learning Is For Life, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Writing Curriculum

Date: August 2, 2013

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How I Connect the Dots Between Life Skills and Curriculum Content

I’m in my eighth year as a high school special education teacher at Kirk School. Most of my students have a cognitive disability diagnosis, and they range from intellectual disabilities to autism.Over the years, I’ve learned that the job comes with special challenges. The curriculum we have brings in higher-order thinking, plus social studies and […]

Author Name: user

Categories: Case Studies

Tags: Curriculum, Reading Curriculum, Readtopia, Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Date: December 19, 2010

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Explore New Heights
Try Building Wings for Free

Explore educational materials from Readtopia and First Author and try them for free with your students—no credit card required.

Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D.​

Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D. is Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. Her focus is on understanding the best ways to assess and teach reading and writing to children with the most severe disabilities. As a special education teacher, Dr. Erickson has worked to support students with a range of disabilities in a variety of classroom settings, particularly students who do not use speech as their primary means of communication.

Website: https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds

Author Profile: https://products.brookespublishing.com/cw_Contributorinfo.aspx?ContribID=110&Name=Karen+Erickson,Ph.D.

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