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picture of Susan MerkellWelcome to Susan Merkell's primary special education class in Wade County, North Carolina. Susan teaches 12 children, ages five through nine who have a variety of moderate to severe disabilities. Four of the children have Down Syndrome, two have cerebral palsy with severe speech and physical impairments, one is blind, and several others have genetically-based developmental disabilities.

The majority of Susan's students are non-speaking. Those students who have some speech combine that speech with signs, gestures, and picture communication symbols to communicate. Two of the children use wheelchairs and only one child has an augmentative communication device.

During a typical day in Susan's classroom, children use a wide range of technology, media, and materials to participate fully in ongoing language and literacy learning experiences. The environment and instruction reflects Susan's deep knowledge of literacy and her belief that all children must be actively engaged in personally meaningful activities. For example, Susan selects a book each month that serves as the basis for a theme that is carried through the majority of daily classroom activities. During free choice children have the opportunity to use the computer, color, draw, write, and read books. Each day all the children gather for circle time where they engage in a variety of individual and group activities. After circle, the children move between centers that offer theme-related activities. During story group the children participate in an interactive reading of the month's book.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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