New center for disability studies established at UNI
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- A new center that will explore, promote and support literacy and communication development of children with significant disabilities was recently established at the University of Northern Iowa.
The Center for Disability Studies in Literacy, Language and Learning is a result of a number of funded projects through federal and state grants and contracts. The center will be located at UNI's Malcolm Price Laboratory School, recently established as the Research and Development School for the State of Iowa.
In collaboration with school personnel, the core faculty of the center will further develop and expand understanding of effective practices to promote learning of highly diverse students, according to Chris Kliewer, UNI professor of special education. He said, "Through effective, education-based practices, the center will provide educational and school-based opportunities for students with disabilities."
The center's focus areas are professional development, family support, policy and scholarship. Through these core areas, Kliewer said the center will develop model demonstration learning sites; create resources to help support families' promotion of literacy and language development in their children; develop materials to inform policy makers who can direct resources to promote full citizenship for all children; and engage in cutting-edge research in the areas of literacy development, language therapies and effective methods of instruction.
Current Federal policies require that all children, including those with the most complex developmental needs, have access to evidence-based literacy programs meaning sound instruction in reading and writing. However, Kliewer noted that, "Data reported on by the U.S. Department of Education show that the majority of children with significant developmental and sensory disabilities continue to face educational separation and exclusion from critical literacy and language learning opportunities."
To address this issue, the center will play a significant role in meeting national objectives for students' literacy and communication. He said, "The center will serve as a focal point in spreading national efforts that explore and document effective education-based literacy and communication methods."
In conjunction with the center's proposed national focus, it will also play an important role in promoting the State of Iowa's effort to increase educational opportunities for all children. "In 2006, the State of Iowa's Department of Education implemented a six-year plan to improve the delivery of special education services and support to Iowa's children and families," said Kliewer.
"This was a direct response to Federal concerns regarding access to general education settings and curricula for Iowa children with developmental disabilities."