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Improving Writing and Communication with First Author™

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Measure, reflect, adapt. Several years ago, special education teachers in the Barrington School District were searching for a better way to engage their emergent learners. They were passionate about enhancing their students’ communication skills, and determined to support their writing development. But, they had many of the same questions they had heard others ask:

  • Which students can benefit from writing instruction?
  • How do we get started?
  • How will we measure progress?
  • Do we have to make all the materials ourselves?

Take a short break and join special educators Kelly Key, M.S. and Alyssia Shower, M.A. for a live webinar. We’ll share what works and how we do it, including:

  • Supporting emergent and conventional writing skills using First Author™
  • What writing instruction looks like (daily/weekly/monthly structure)
  • Tools our students use to write (Hint: we offer tons of writing tool choices including handwriting, keyboarding, AAC devices, partner-assisted scanning letter boards, and more)
  • Fun ideas to Celebrate their writing (Author’s Chair)

About the Presenter

Headshot of Alyssa Shower in a classroom.
Alyssia Shower

has been in the field of special education for 7 years. She received her Learning Behavior Specialist degree from the University of Illinois. She also received her Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University, her Assistive Technology certificate from Bowling Green University and her ESL endorsement from National Louis University. She is the Intermediate Foundations teacher working with students in grades second through fifth who have significant needs.

Headshot of Kelly Key, M.S.
Kelly Key

is the Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Barrington School District (EC-Transition) in Barrington, Illinois. She has worked in the field of special education for over 25 years. Prior to becoming an administrator, she taught special education students with multiple needs for 9 years. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership as well as an ATACP.

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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