Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ruth Wharton-McDonald


The purpose of the current study was to investigate the impact of an integrated decoding, spelling and communication intervention on literacy and communication outcomes for students with complex communication needs (CCN). The current study was done with three students with CCN, all of whom used a particular augmentative communication device. Using a non-concurrent multiple baseline across subject design, and a descriptive case study design, the study tested the hypothesis that integrated instruction would lead to improvements in decoding, spelling and, communication using an AAC device. The intervention provided integrated, systematic and explicit instruction through scripted lessons that taught students to decode, spell and communicate the same corpus of high frequency words. The intervention was grounded in general education constructivist based practices and was provided daily by a consistent educator. Throughout the study outside of directed instructional times, the frequency of spontaneous device use was measured across a baseline phase, intervention phase, 1-week post phase and a 5-week post phase. Students' progress was also measured across five pretest-posttest measures including word identification, developmental spelling, word generation, icon sequencing, and expressive communication. Results found high day-to-day fluctuations in students' spontaneous use of their communication devices. However, the most important finding was students' progress on the literacy and communication pretest-posttests, yielding not only improvement in abilities, but generalization across reading, spelling, and communication measures. The findings suggest that integrated communication, decoding and spelling instruction based on constructivist-based practices was successful.