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Writing Instruction for Students with
Angelman Syndrome
Erin Sheldon, M. Ed.
This webinar
• What does writing instruction look like for
students with Angelman syndrome?
• How do we plan and implement this instruction
in the individual education plan?
The Bridge
Students with Angelman
Students with Angelman
Students with Angelman
The Bridge
Students with Angelman
The Bridge
Students with Angelman
The Bridge
Students with Angelman
Emergent writing
• Most students with Angelman syndrome are emerging
• Students learn they are writers by imitating the writing
behaviours of the people around them
• Students think most carefully about print when writing
with the alphabet
• Students combine letters, symbols, words, drawings,
and pictures in their emergent writing
• Writing is cognitively very similar to using an AAC device
• What a student with Angelman can write is likely the
best window into what that student knows about the
Oral and Written Language Development
(Koppenhaver, Coleman, Kalman & Yoder, 1991, adapted from Teale & Sulzby, 1989)
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Rule of thumb:
Its not writing if its not translating the student’s thoughts.
The Developmental Writing Scale
Essential to develop emergent
writing skills and understandings:
• Access • Daily opportunity
• Authentic purpose: it helps get things done!
• Modelling
• Instruction
• Language and vocabulary
• The letters of the alphabet
• Select an “alternative pencil” that places the
LEAST demands on the student’s motor skills
Pinterest: Accessing the Alphabet
Dr. Caroline Musselwhite
Word Wizard
• Full alphabet, A-Z or QWERTY
• Says letter name or letter sound
• Speaks word or sentence
• Supports alphabet awareness, phonological awareness,
alphabet exploration, emergent writing and spelling, text-tospeech to share responses
Top 40
Writing app
Text to speech, predicted text
Add photos for context
Adapted, personalized keyboards for alternative pencil
Digital alphabet flipcharts as keyboard
Share via app, email, or screenshot and publish
E-mail writing samples home for family to decipher
Supports early and conventional writing, motivation, selfcorrection, problem-solving for spelling
Be Cautious About the Energy Spent on
Form vs. Function
Slide from Dr. Gretchen Hanser
Jonah Note Dad
Slide from Dr. Caroline Musselwhite
Slide from Dr. Caroline Musselwhite
Co:Writer for iOS
• High-quality word prediction, particularly for phonetic spellers
• Spell check
• Text to speech
• Export text to other apps
• Seamlessly integrates with Co:Writer and SOLO
literacy suite
Daily opportunity
• Report on my day at school or what I did over the weekend
• Write a note to a friend
• Help generate the grocery list
• Update my Facebook status
• Report on what I am learning
• Re-write or add to a book
• Caption photos
• Scribbling is essential!
• If it starts with “I”, there is no right or wrong
• Always select a photo or remnant for context
• Use the AAC system to establish and clarify
Kid in Story Creator
• Can add any child to any background
• Insert favourite characters or celebrities
• Insert friends or family into non-fiction text
• Insert historical figures into story • Any photo, Keynote, PowerPoint, or PDF can serve as the background
• Teach prepositions: on, off, under, over
• Teach geography
Authentic purpose
• Helps me accomplish one of MY goals
• Invites interaction and engagement from other
• Shows off what I know
My People
by Maggie
•This template is from the Center for Literacy & Disability Studies at Chapel Hill, NC
A is for Alyssia.
F is for my Family.
G is for Girl Guides.
H is for Harry.
J is for Jordyn.
M is for Maisy and Maggie.
S is for Sarah.
• We use the child’s alternative pencil to
accomplish our own authentic writing tasks
• Using the alphabet across the day
• Instructional feedback
• Video modelling as we use their alternative
Vote by letter
Magnetic Alphabet
for Tablets
(Slide by Caroline
Scribbling: Before / During / After
• BEFORE: Set a purpose for scribbling
• DURING: Give reinforcement feedback
• AFTER: Give informative feedback
• Scaffolds learning
• Helps students make connections to meaning
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Scribbling: Before
• BEFORE: Set a purpose for scribbling
– Supports student in topic-setting
– Gives us a context to make guesses about possible
– Can use photos, post-its with possible topics, journal
• BEFORE: Model scribbling for the student
– Use the student’s ‘pencil’
– Write on a similar but slightly different topic (so the
student can’t copy your ideas)
– Read what you wrote, then turn over (no copying!)
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Scribbling: During
• DURING: Give reinforcement feedback
– Helps students keep going
– Helps students produce enough text for feedback
– Be sparing!!!
– We want to reduce prompt-dependency!!!
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Reinforcement Feedback
(Erickson & Hanser, 2010)
Good writing!
Awesome work.
You really paid attention.
Great job!
Excellent work.
Your mom will be really proud of you.
• Good for confidence, but doesn’t teach
them how to think and write
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Scribbling: After
• AFTER: Give informative feedback
– Scaffolds learning
– Helps students make connections to meaning
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Plan A: Supporting Beginning “Scribblers” • Attribute Meaning to Student’s Attempts
– We do this naturally for typically developing
– Gives meaning to students’ random attempts to
build their cognitive understanding of actions.
– Not always as natural for children with significant
disabilities. Focus may be on extinguishing the
external behavior.
• Make links between writing & student experiences
Adapted from Gretchen Hanser
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Plan B: Informative Feedback
(Erickson & Hanser, 2010)
• I see some letters from your name. Let’s find
• Point to one of your letters. Let’s see if it is in
someone’s name.
• You have a lot of “c”s in your writing. Let’s find all
of them.
• Let’s see if we can write some more words with
some of your letters.
(Slide by Caroline Musselwhite)
Maggie: Topic = Ruby Bridges
Gretchen Hanser's
alternative pencil and
deaf-blind resources