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Literacy Development

Finegan, C. (2001). "Alternative early childhood education: Reggio Emilia. ." Kappa Delta Pi Record 37(2): 82-84.

Kliewer, C. and Landis, D. (1999). Individualizing literacy instruction for young children with moderate to severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 66, 85-100.

            This qualitative study analyzes the meaning of curricular individualization as it's related to literacy instruction for young children labeled moderately to severely mentally disabled.  Findings from extensive participant observation and interviews involving 14 teachers, their colleagues, and students suggest that individualizing practices may stem from two disparate sources of understanding: institutional or local.  Instructional opportunities made available to children stemming from either source are described.  Implications of a shift to local understanding are discussed.

Kliewer, C., Fitzgerald, L. M., Meyer-Mork, J., Hartman, P., & Raschke, D. (2004). Citizenship for all in the literate community: An ethnography of young children with significant disabilities in inclusive early childhood settings. Harvard Educational Review, 74(4), 373-403.

            In this study, the authors use ethnographic methods to explore literacy development in young children considered to have significant disabilities.  The study settings included nine preschool and kindergarten classrooms across five programs, all of which involved children with and without disabilities learning side-by-side.  Over the course of two school years, the authors observed teachers emphasizing children's narratives, and in so doing effectively fostering the citizenship of all children in the literate communities of the classrooms under study.  The authors describe several themes that appeared in their data related to fostering effective literacy development in children historically segregated from rich curricular opportunities.  In this effort, defining literacy as making meaning and interpreting children with disabilities as competent meaning-makers was foremost.

Kliewer, C., & Biklen, D. (2001). "School's not really a place for reading": A research synthesis of the literate lives of students with severe disabilities. The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 26(1), 1-12.

Mirenda, Pat (2003). “He’s not really a reader…”: Perspectives on supporting literacy development in individuals with autism. Topics in Language Disorders, 23, 271-282.

Rogow, S. M. (1997). Language, literacy and children with special needs. Scarborough, Ontario, Pippin Publishing Corporation.


Inclusive Education

 Biklen, D. (1985). Achieving the complete school; Strategies for effective mainstreaming. New York: Teachers College Press.

            This book is as timely today as it was when it was written two decades ago.  Biklen examines principles and strategies for use in achieving the successful mainstreaming of students.  The chapters are based upon roles of specific groups (e.g. administrators, parents, teachers).  Biklen argues for the benefits of inclusive practices by referring to sociological research such as that of Voeltz (1980, 1982) who explains that integration provides the opportunity 'for students to learn about each other's humanness, uniqueness, and similarities' (p.9).  If typically-developing or non-labeled students and their teachers (and by extension, parents of other children) are only exposed to children with disabilities on a limited basis, they will fail to see the differences among those with such labels.  In other words, with only limited contact with kids labeled as having disabilities, stereotypes are more likely to be formed.  

Biklen, D. (2000). "Constructing inclusion: Lessons from critical disability narratives." International Journal of Inclusion Education 4(4): 337-353.

            Drawing from critical disability narratives, including disability studies works, autobiographies and school age students' commentaries, explored is how discussions of school inclusion might be expanded to reflect disability voices.  The analysis focuses on inclusion primarily as it concerns students with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome, and how, in light of lessons from critical disability narratives, students with these disabilities might experience fuller academic as well as social inclusion.  Specifically, presented are four themes drawn from disability narratives: (1) resisting static understandings of disability; (2) creating and finding contexts for experiencing competence; (3) learning to recognize and resist normate narratives of disability; and (4) honoring the experience of disability.  The paper includes a series of assumptions and principles for practicing inclusion that arguably can be derived from critical disability narratives.

Dunn, L. M. (1968). Special education for the mildly retarded - Is much of it justifiable? Exceptional Children, 35(1), 5-22.

D'Alonzo, B., Giordano, G., Vanleeuwen, D. (1997). Perceptions by teachers about the benefits and liabilities of inclusion. Preventing School Failure, 42(1), 4.

Edmiaston, R. K. and L. M. Fitzgerald (2000). "How Reggio Emilia encourages inclusion." Educational Leadership 58(1): 66-69.

            The Grant Early Childhood Center in Iowa successfully mainstreams children with disabilities through Prizing Our Natural Differences (POND), a program based on the Reggio Emilia approach. Successful inclusion at the Center is facilitated through the four core elements of the Reggio Emilia approach--encouraging collaborative relationships between teachers and children, children and their peers, general and special educators, and teachers and parents; constructing effective environments; developing project-based curricula; and documenting learning in multiple ways. By adapting these principles, the POND program supports the development of a classroom community that allows young children with disabilities to become full participants, facilitates the development of each child's autonomy, and promotes individualization of educational goals and instructional practices to meet the needs of all children.”

Gartner, A., Lipsky, D. (1987). Beyond special education: Toward a quality system for all students. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 367-395.

Gartner, A., Lipsky, D. (1987). Capable of achievement and worthy of respect: Education for handicapped students as if they were full-fledged human beings. Exceptional Children, 54, 69-74.

Gartner, A., Lipsky, D. (1996). Inclusion, school restructuring, and the remaking of American society. . Harvard Educational Review, 66, 762-796.

Giangreco, M., St. Denis, R., Cloninger, C., Edelman, S., Schattman, R. (1993). "I've counted Jon": transformational experiences of teachers educating students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 59(4), 359.

            The authors studied the experiences teachers encountered while including children with disabilities in their classrooms.  Based on teacher interviews, observations, and reflections, the study highlights the transformation that teachers underwent as they included students with more significant disabilities in their classes for the first time.  Consequently many of the teachers interviewed also experienced a change in how they perceived students with disabilities based on their experience of having those students in their class. 

Kasa-Hendrickson, C. (2004). 'There's no way this kid's retarded': Teachers' optimistic constructions of students' ability. International Journal of Inclusion Education, 8, 1-15

            This qualitative study analyses the experiences of four teachers who, within the context of the inclusive classroom, resist interpreting non-verbal students with autism as mentally retarded and seek to form a new understanding of ability.  The following themes are discussed: (1) finding situations where students demonstrate competence, (2) rethinking performance and understanding, and (3) expecting struggles.

Kasa-Hendrickson, C., Kluth, P. (2005). "We have to start with inclusion and work it out as we go": Purposeful inclusion for non-verbal students with autism. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 2(1), 2-14. 

            In this qualitative study the authors analyzed the experiences of five teachers who were actively committed to practicing inclusion and seeking strategies to provide access and opportunity within the general education classroom.  Findings suggest that teachers' thoughtful planning and systematic teaching created successful educational experiences for six non-verbal students with autism.  Teachers engaged in the following principles when supporting the successful inclusion of non-verbal students with autism: establishing the community, making classrooms accessible, and working through challenges.

Kliewer, C., & Biklen, D. (1996). Labeling: Who wants to be called retarded? In W. Stainbeck & S. Stainbeck (Eds.), Controversial issues confronting special education: Divergent perspectives (pp.83-95).  Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kliewer, C. (1998). The meaning of inclusion. Mental Retardation, 36, 317.

Kliewer responds to Chesley and Calaluce's article entitled "Deception of inclusion.”  In it he addresses several key points regarding education in general.  Specifically he writes about membership, citizenship, and participation as being fundamental to education.  He clearly defines inclusive education, and cites both recent and historical research supporting the philosophy and practice of inclusion.  In conclusion Kliewer discusses the "essential role" parents play in their child's education and how educators must be ever mindful of insights parents have of their own children.

Kluth, P., Villa, R., Thousand, J. (2001/2002). ""Our school doesn't offer inclusion" and other legal blunders." Educational Leadership(24-27).

Taylor, S. J. (1988). "Caught in the continuum: A critical analysis of the principle of least restrictive environment." The Journal of the Association of Severe Handicaps 13(1): 41-53.

This article presents a critical analysis of the principle of the least restrictive environment (LRE).  The article begins with a review of the origins of LRE in professional writings and law and moves next to a discussion of how LRE has been operationalized in terms of a continuum of residential, educational, and vocational services.  Building on previous critiques of the continuum concept, the author presents seven conceptual and philosophical flaws or pitfalls in the LRE principle itself, especially when it is applied to people with severe disabilities.  The author then argues that an uncritical acceptance of LRE may lead to the establishment of a 'new' community-based continuum and takes the position that many leading writings in the field can be interpreted to legitimate this new continuum  The conclusion of the article supports an unconditional commitment to integration and briefly contrasts integration with LRE as a guiding principle for the design of services and support for people with developmental disabilities and concludes with a note on the importance of viewing concepts in historical context.

Thousand, J., Villa, R. (1995). "Inclusion: Alive and well in the green mountain." Phi Delta Kappan 77(4).

Villa, R., Thousand, J., Meyers, H., Nevin, A. (1996). Teacher and administrator perceptions of heterogeneous education. Exceptional Children, 63, 29.

            This article is based on survey results from 680 licensed general and special education teachers and administrators.  The authors suggest, based on their findings, that teachers prefer the idea of educating students in the general education setting as opposed to pullout programs. 

Wansart, W. L. (1995). Teaching as a way of knowing; Observing and responding to students' abilities. Remedial and Special Education, 16(3), 166-177.

Wansart challenges teachers to engage in ‘a conversation with’ their students as they create their own stories.  The author describes teacher researchers as using ‘the stories students reveal about the competent aspects of their lives as learners to immediately change their teaching.’  This is a wonderful article for master’s degree students to read and reflect upon ways to get to know their students’ abilities.


Home-school relationships

Biklen, D. (1992). Schooling without labels; Parents, educators, and inclusive education. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

            In response to administrators, policy makers and critics of inclusion who question whether or not inclusion works and if so, where, Biklen suggests we look to families.  In this book Biklen highlights six families and ways they include their children in the greater social realm.  He challenges special education professionals who have done more to increase their authority status rather than working toward the direct benefit and inclusion of the individuals with disabilities and their families.

Erwin, E. J., & Soodak, L., C. (1995). I never knew I could stand up to the system: Families' perspectives on pursuing inclusive education. The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 20(2), 13-146.

            The authors describe the experiences encountered by parents committed to inclusive education for their children with disabilities.  Results revealed that parents desired inclusive education, because they viewed it as a fundamental right for their children.  Most importantly, findings indicated that parents employed numerous strategies to obtain inclusive education for their children, often seeking assistance from the courts and media.  According to the author, these findings suggest the need for meaningful family and school collaboration.

Palmer, D., Fuller, K., Arora, T., Nelson, M. (2001). Taking sides: Parent views on inclusion for their children with severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 67, 467.

Turnbull, A. P., Turnbull III, H. R., Erwin, E. J., & Soodak, L., C. (2006). Families, professionals, advocacy, inclusion (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

This book shares the themes that emerged from four families and their experiences and describe the need for trusting relationships to develop between families and school professionals.  The authors describe the elements of partnerships and suggestions for building partnerships.  Positive outcomes will emerge from the school reform movement that includes special education and services, suggest the authors.

Turnbull III, H. R., & Turnbull, A. P. (1985). Parents speak out; then and now (2nd ed.). Columbus: Charles E. Merrill.

This book offers a collection of parent stories describing their experiences as they sought what they thought their children needed.  Most of the parents are also professionals in the field of special education or related services.  In this second edition of the book, several of the authors provide an update to their stories which makes this an interesting historical read in addition to offering an intimate perspective of families.


Student Perspectives

Biklen, D. & Burke, J. (2006).  Presuming competence.  Equity & Excellence in Education, 39 (2), 166-175.

The core of this article is a conversation between a university educator and a high school student with autism who types to communicate.  Out of this essay, the authors find a series of principles for inclusive schooling, the most central of which is the idea of presuming competence of students.

Diamond, K. E., Huang, H. (2005). Preschoolers' ideas about disabilities. Infants and Young Children, 18(1), 37-46.

            "This article examines what we know about typically developing children's ideas about age mates with disabilities and how experiences in inclusive programs may influence children's ideas and attitudes.  We focus on young children's understanding of different disabilities, the ways that parents and teachers can influence children's ideas, and relations between children's ideas, interactions, and experiences in settings that include peers with disabilities.  Finally, we offer suggestions of ways that teachers can support preschool children's interactions and help them to understand what it means to have a disability."

Peck C. A., D., J., Pezzoli, M. (1990). Some benefits non-handicapped adolescents perceive for themselves from their social relationships with peers who have severe disabilities. . Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 15(4), 241-249.

Schnorr, R. F. (1990). "Peter? He comes and goes...": First graders' perspectives on a part-time mainstream student. The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 15(4), 231-240.

Staub, D. (1998). Delicate threads: Friendships between children with and without special needs in inclusive settings. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Williams, R. B., et al. (1994). Inclusion from the perspective of persons with mental retardation, Annual Meeting of the American Association on Mental Retardation. Manchester, NH.

            This paper describes how educators/caregivers can learn about inclusion from the perspective of persons with mental retardation through participation in selected case study activities.  Each educator/caregiver selects an individual who is involved in the inclusion process in a school or other program, to study for the year.  Information about each subject is gathered from daily observations, academic or vocational work, cumulative records, consultation with family, and other sources.  It is felt that the use of such case study activities will result in: greater objectivity in recording and interpreting behavior, withholding of judgments about behavior when evidence is lacking, substantiating statements about behavior with evidence, greater openness to work at understanding the meaningfulness and/or function of behavior, and increased understanding and appreciation of what inclusion means to persons with mental retardation.



Barr, M. A., D. A. Craig, et al. (1999). Assessing literacy with the learning record. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.

            Centre Director Myra Barrs explains how the Learning Record (LR) “provides a structure of portfolio assessment across the subject areas” using a combination of detailed narratives and artifacts of students work.  Barrs argues for a more comprehensive and ongoing structure for assessment that is flexible and able to accommodate individual differences.  Barr outlines four parts of the assessment process.  The first part is completed in the beginning of the year and involves the description of personal student data developed from discussions with the student and the family (e.g. language background).  The second part of the record involves on-going observation of students and their work with teachers making detailed narratives describing what a child can do. The third part of the LR is a teacher’s summary of a child’s progress based on the data collected. It includes references to reading and writing scales like those provided in the Appendices, but a teacher might prefer to use locally-developed scales or curriculum-based standards. The fourth part of the LR is written at the end of the school year.  Here, the teacher updates the data collection information.   This part of the LR includes parents’ and students’ reflections upon reviewing the child’s record of achievement.  One teacher commented about using the Learning Record: “I feel this process is opening up a new avenue for me as a teacher to see the ‘whole’ child – not simply a statistic or rather a child at ‘such and such’ a level” (p.47). 

Boyd-Batstone, P. (2004). "Focused anecdotal records assessment: A tool for standards-based, authentic assessment." The Reading Teacher 58(3): 230-239.

            The author argues that qualitative measures such as rubrics, student profiles, and anecdotal records provide measures that fill in the gaps which standardized measures do not provide to give teachers immediate information to plan for instruction. The author describes a technique for anecdotal records assessment that uses the lens of content standards for an initial focus. “As a classroom teacher and as a teacher educator,” writes the author, “I sought to develop a teacher-friendly, standards-based way to address recording, managing, and using anecdotal records for authentic assessment purposes. I call the system focused anecdotal records assessment (ARA).”

Clay, M. M. (1993). An observation survey of early literacy achievement. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.

Erickson, K. A. (2000). All children are ready to learn: An emergent versus readiness perspective in early literacy assessment. Seminars in Speech and Language, 21(3), 193-203.

            Assessment of emergent literacy is relatively new to the field of communication disorders.  Traditional approaches to reading assessment evaluated mastery of reading readiness skills.  By contrast, emergent literacy assessment evaluates the increased awareness and understanding of print that begin early in development.  One of the most influential figures in emergent literacy assessment has been Marie M. Clay.  She has defined critical components of emergent literacy and, in so doing, has played an integral role in the paradigm shift from a reading readiness to an emergent literacy perspective.  This article is intended to distinguish emergent literacy from reading readiness, explicate Marie Clay's contribution to our current understanding of effective emergent literacy assessment, and provide some guidance in using her assessment techniques with children with significant disabilities.

 Gioia, B. P. Johnston, et al. (2001). "Documenting and developing literacy in deaf children." Literacy Teaching and Learning 6(1): 1-22.

Johnston, P. (2003). "Assessment conversations." The Reading Teacher 57(1): 90-92.

            In theory, assessment is about gathering and interpreting data to inform action. In practice, data interpretations are constrained by our views of literacy and students, the assessment conversations that surround us, and the range of "actions" we can imagine....There are better assessment conversations....These assessment strategies, documenting and collaboratively analyzing data, will help them [teachers] achieve their goals of improving their teaching and reducing achievement differences among groups of students...These are also the stated goals of high-stakes testing. However, the tests provide no useful or timely information to help teachers accomplish such goals, and they encourage an interactional climate that can undermine them. (Journal Extract)

Katims, D. S. (2000). The quest for literacy; Curriculum and instructional procedures for teaching reading and writing to students with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, The Division on Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities of The Council for Exceptional Children.

Ratcliff, N. J. (2001). "Using authentic assessment to document the emerging literacy skills of young children." Association for Childhood Education International 78(2): 66-70.

            Ratcliff examines ways in which 5 year olds demonstrate their understanding of reading and writing through purposeful experiences.  Ratcliff discusses the advantages and limitations for teaching using the following assessment tools to monitor children's on-going literacy skills: 1.Checklists of sequential skills.  Although they are easy to use to show the presence or absence of particular skills, they do not 'get at' the child's repertoire; there is no depth to this tool and it may be problematic because children are inconsistent performers. 2.  Anecdotal records from observations.  These involve written detailed descriptions of an event.  The greatest advantage of using this tool is that the context is recorded, so the teacher can look for patterns in the environment which might provide the child with greater opportunities to demonstrate literacy skills.  3. Videotape & audiotape recordings.  Although there is need for more time to review and take notes from these records, they can be reviewed repeatedly and the teacher and other adults (or even the child) might take notice of certain things that they would not have in the one original event.  4. Work samples.  These typically are collected samples of children's written work over time (they could be copies of electronic outputs) which the teacher studies and writes up a written reflection describing the context and what features s/he found interesting in the child's production of the work.  Ratcliff suggests the teacher select the strategies to use, determine a schedule for implementing the strategies that involves multiple curricula and environments. 

Roskos, K. (2004). "Early literacy assessment - Thoughtful, sensible, and good." The Reading Teacher 58(1): 91-94.

            The author argues for the need for high quality assessment tools to support the development of strong standards for measuring the success of literacy programs in preschools and the early primary grades. She discusses issues surrounding early literacy assessment and calls for norm-referenced screening and progress monitoring measures to allow the identification of at-risk learners and the tracking of their progress.



The contents of this site were developed under grants from the U.S. Department of Education (nos. H324D010031 & H324C040213).  However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and no endorsement by the Federal Government should be assumed.  For further information, please contact the project Directors Dr. Christopher Kliewer at christopher.kliewer@uni.edu or Dr. Christi Kasa-Hendrickson at christi.hendrickson@uccs.edu.