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10:45 AM CDT

8:45 AM PDT | 9:45 AM MDT
11:45 PM EDT | 4:45 PM BST

Virtual Lobby

Join in at this time if you’d like to view and become familiar with our on-line dashboard and get prepared for the keynote presentation at 11 a.m. CDT.

11:00 AM CDT

9 AM PDT | 10 AM MDT
12:00 PM EDT | 5 PM BST

Virtual Lobby

Join in at this time if you’d like to view and become familiar with our on-line dashboard and get prepared for the keynote presentation at 11 a.m. CDT.

Keynote Presentation

Presenter: Karen Erickson, Ph.D


Literacy improves lives, but learning to read and write doesn’t just happen. We must make it happen through comprehensive instruction. Effective comprehensive literacy instruction is best delivered by interprofessional teams that address the full range of each learner’s needs. Yet, just one person can change the trajectory of a learner’s literacy outcomes. It takes just one person to decide that literacy learning is possible and just one person to provide comprehensive instruction day after day. You can be that person!


12:00 PM CDT

10:00 AM PDT | 11 AM MDT
1:00 PM EDT | 6:00 PM BST

Strand One | (Pick one of three sessions)

Participants can selected to attend one of the following three presentations and will receive recordings for all sessions

Presenter: Kelly Key, M.S.


Dr. Karen Erickson says, “The only way that someone with complex communication needs will ever be able to communicate whatever they want with whomever they want, whenever they want is if we teach them reading and writing”.*

This is a mission our staff feels passionately about.  Join this session and learn how this unit school district (ages 3-22) uses the Comprehensive Literacy approach to teach literacy to emergent learners that use AAC.  Specific examples of lessons, curriculum, and activities will be shared as well as how we increase authentic communication with our AAC users during literacy activities by using specific partner skills and strategies.  Information will also be shared on the creative ways we use our student’s AAC during literacy activities.  These include using their AAC as their “pencil” when writing, spelling support, phonics, comprehension, and more).

*Citation: Why is Literacy Critical in AAC by Karen Erickson – YouTube. (2022). Youtube.Com.

Presenter: Caroline Musselwhite, Ed.D, CCC-SLP


Many learners with significant disabilities have complex needs, such as using AAC systems, physical access, and/or vision issues.  This session will share simple strategies to (quickly!) make instruction more effective and more engaging.  Light and high tech supports will be shared for each component of emergent literacy instruction. Come prepared to construct a plan for developing – and maintaining – the focus of all learners, plus the links to a toolbox of materials, tips, and strategies. 

Presenter: Amanda Soper, M.S., CCC-SLP


Children with complex learning needs including Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI) can learn to communicate, read, and write!  Visual behaviors associated with CVI may impact students’ learning, so it is important for educators and families to understand their specific learning needs.  Amanda will examine the visual complexities unique to the student, educators can isolate these visual behaviors and provide appropriate strategies and supports to help students with CVI become readers and writers.


12:55 PM CDT

10:55 AM PDT | 11:55 AM MDT
1:55 PM EDT | 6:55 PM BST

Strand Two | (Pick one of three sessions)

Participants can selected to attend one of the following three presentations and will receive recordings for all sessions

Presenter: Marlene R. Cummings, M.A., CCC-SLP


In recent years, educational teams have deepened and expanded their knowledge base in comprehensive literacy for students with complex needs.  Having this knowledge in the hands of a few “experts,” however, is not a sustainable model of support for all  literacy learners. To ensure a larger impact and foster sustainability, we must move to a model that builds capacity. What tools and strategies can we use to shift the current “expert” mindset to one of collaboration and shared knowledge?  During this session, we will describe capacity building and its components, ways to build capacity, and the benefits of a collaborative model.  Participants will be encouraged to consider their current state and determine what shifts can be made toward a capacity building model.

Presenter: Maureen Donnelly, M.Ed.


For many reasons, helping emergent readers begin their literacy journey can be filled with obstacles both real,like access, and perceived, like attitude. Comprehensive literacy instruction, as defined by Erickson and Koppenhaver, encourages us to provide daily instruction in shared reading, independent reading, alphabet and phonological activities, shared writing, and independent writing. While we may embrace this approach and endeavor toward its aim of conventional literacy for all, starting out can feel overwhelming. This session will encourage participants to take the first few steps by reframing their thinking about emergent learners, prioritizing instructional time, leveraging student interests, and finding new ways to see and measure progress. 

Presenter: Michael McCormick, M.S.


Programmatic improvement may seem like a daunting task. Deciding when, how, or where to start is a decision each District must make when seeking to embed or improve literacy instruction for students with complex learning needs. This session will focus on one District’s approach to doing so. Participants will leave with a variety of resources to engage in the process in their District at different levels including IEP goal writing, specially designed instruction, professional development, measurable annual goals.


1:50 PM CDT

11:50 AM PDT | 12:50 AM MDT
2:50 PM EDT | 7:50 PM BST

Closing Remarks

Presenter: Don Johnston, M.S.


Don Johnston, CEO and Founder of Building Wings, will share his childhood experiences as a struggling learner and the impact one individual had on his life and legacy. This is an opportunity to experience Don’s story, and take the next steps so that you can change the literacy trajectory for the learners in your life. You won’t want to miss Don’s  closing remarks!

Schedule at a Glance

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.


Author Profile:,Ph.D.

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