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An analysis of reading and spelling abilities in children who use AAC: understanding a continuum of competence

Journal article
Authors Annika Dahlgren Sandberg
Martine Smith
Maria Larsson
Published in Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Volume 26
Issue 3
Pages 191–202
ISSN 0743-4618
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 191–202
Language en
Keywords reading, spelling, phonological awareness, children, cerebral palsy, individual profiles
Subject categories Psychology


The over-representation of reading and spelling difficulties in children with complex communication needs has been well documented. However, most of the studies reported have indicated that at least some children using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) can achieve and demonstrate effective literacy skills, highlighting the heterogeneity of this group. This paper presents findings from a cross-linguistic study of 14 Swedish and 14 Irish children with cerebral palsy who use AAC, outlining their performance on a range of phonological awareness, reading and spelling tasks developed for the purposes of the study. All participants were referred to the study as functioning in the average range of intellectual ability. Of the 28 participants, 8 were classified as good readers, on the basis of their success on tasks involving connected text, while 10 presented with single word reading skills, and 10 were categorized as non-readers. This paper explores the similarities and differences within and across these groups, in terms of associated skills and experiences. While analyses of group data suggest some common abilities and difficulties, exploration of individual profiles highlights the heterogeneity of the profiles of the participants, suggesting a need for detailed individual assessment and interventions.

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