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June 15, 2017 — Don Johnston Releases Readtopia — A comprehensive reading curriculum for students with autism and other complex needs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joan McAlpin
847-740-0749
jmcalpin@donjohnston.com

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Don Johnston Releases Readtopia
A comprehensive reading curriculum for students with autism and other complex needs

VOLO, Ill., June 15, 2017 – Don Johnston Incorporated released Readtopia™, a comprehensive reading curriculum for middle and high school students with autism and other complex needs. It brings first-hand experiential learning into the classroom—teaching students standards-aligned social studies, ELA, and science content.

Readtopia in the Classroom

Readtopia combines over $5 million of materials developed over a decade by a panel of educators, innovators, researchers, writers, and videographers. The core of the program features experiential video, graphic novels (at six levels to match student needs), and informational text.

“Readtopia reflects my years of research and work with students. It gives teachers a comprehensive set of instructional materials like we’ve never had before,” said Dr. Karen Erickson of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “With Readtopia, teachers can break through literacy barriers and bring out the potential of each student to participate and LEARN academically and in life. If you work with students with complex needs, you need to understand what we’ve done here.”

Company founder and Readtopia visionary, Don Johnston, calls this curriculum his “life’s work.” For decades, he envisioned paving a path of discovery that could change the way students with complex needs learn while equipping teachers with the resources they need to make learning to read an experience.

“When I discovered how to make movies in my head, it transformed my experience as a student,” Don explained. “I didn’t have a problem learning when I saw. When reading, I had to transform the words on the page into visual images. Then I got the point.”

To achieve his dream, Don traveled the world filming on-location with film maker Mike Byrne to produce original video. Education visionaries Karen Erickson, Ph.D., and Caroline Musselwhite, Ed.D., created the educational design. Writers, including Jerry Stemach, M.S. CCC-SLP, Carol Seibert, Helen Sillett, Ph.D., and creative design teams developed leveled graphic novels rich with age-respectful images and authentic texts. These materials are complemented with leveled, standards-based activities.

The result is a wide ranging collection of thematic units driven by explicitly guided lessons.

Readtopia Includes Five Instructional Components

This format of deep and experiential learning takes students to places they may never have the opportunity to visit. Don filmed his own journey down 1,000 feet in a submarine to help students learn about oceanography. He also filmed inside a volcano in Iceland as a way to introduce them to the book Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Other videos in the Readtopia collection include professional actors portraying historical figures and real events. Students can hear from Sacagawea to understand the journey Lewis and Clark faced heading west. They see a reenactment on an actual Civil War battlefield to experience the harsh realities that shaped the history of our country. Readtopia allows students to experience learning as a means to support and reinforce reading instruction.

All of this is supported by authentic literature, phonics/early reading instruction, and informational text that builds foundational reading skills for students with a wide range of special needs including autism spectrum disorders, behavioral disorders, cognitive disabilities, physical/health impairments, and multiple disabilities.

Readtopia delivers the curriculum through thematic units that will help teachers transform classrooms into laboratories of experiential learning.

A Readtopia subscription includes online access to the following resources:

  • All of the thematic units available (including all additional units to be added)
  • Videos for each thematic unit
  • Graphic Novels at six levels
  • Leveled Informational Text (10 types)
  • Authentic text
  • Instructional guides
  • Phonics and Word Study
  • Assessment

Resource Links:
To learn more about Readtopia, please visit:
http://donjohnston.com/readtopia

To watch a video of Readtopia used in a classroom, please visit:
http://bit.ly/2s55oan

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

March 5, 2015 — Don Johnston Releases First Author® Writing Curriculum — A comprehensive writing curriculum for students with complex support needs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lena Hanson
847-740-0749
lhanson@donjohnston.com

Download PDF

Don Johnston Releases First Author® Writing Curriculum
A comprehensive writing curriculum for students with complex support needs

VOLO, Ill., March 5, 2015 – Don Johnston Incorporated released First Author® Writing Curriculum, a comprehensive writing curriculum for students with significant disabilities including autism. The program helps special educators teach early writing skills required for the new alternate assessments.

Devin-in-author's-chair-crop

Traditionally, writing instruction in self-contained and autism classrooms focused on handwriting and worksheets. New state standards require students to write ideas and opinions. Students with the most significant disabilities are now required to take the writing portion of the DLM, NCSC, STAAR Alternate, and other state assessments. First Author Writing Curriculum was designed to give special educators and paraprofessionals the resources they need to meet new state writing standards and prepare their students for the alternate assessments. It also guides teachers to measure writing outcomes.

Several schools participated in the development of First Author Writing Curriculum including Keith Bovenschen School, a school for students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments. Traditional literacy goals in many of these schools include tracing letters, handwriting one’s name, address, and sometimes phone number. The school has been implementing First Author Writing Curriculum over the last three years. Bovenschen principal, Denise Jackson, explains a transformation she saw from traditional writing goals to expressive writing. “Not even in our wildest dreams did we ever think of having (our students) write expressive kinds of things about their interests or topics, so First Author expanded a whole area we had not even considered.”

“Writing instruction is changing the lives of these students by opening up a whole stream of written communication that many special education programs never considered possible,” said Central Michigan University professor and First Author designer, Dr. Janet Sturm. “Yet, students with complex needs are often never taught to write. I’ve seen many of these students enter a classroom without any authentic writing experiences, and after several weeks of the First Author program, they grow to view themselves as authors. It’s really powerful.”

The curriculum features explicit instruction, supported writing time, and communication. Scripted lessons guide educators through the process of teaching writing strategies. Students practice writing independently through a Universal Design for Learning model with accommodation supports. They then share their writing with the class through a sharing period called “Author’s Chair.”

Don Johnston Incorporated released several videos on their website showcasing students in the program. Students are clearly transformed by the experience. One student wrote about going to prom and another wrote about video games. A student with complex physical needs wrote about taking his whole class to an amusement park to see the roller coasters—something no one expected.

“First Author Writing Curriculum is the first comprehensive writing curriculum designed for special education and autism classrooms,” said Mary Krenz, First Author project coordinator for Don Johnston Incorporated. “Many districts aren’t equipped for the new standards, so this curriculum comes at a perfect time. It’ll give teachers the resources they need to be successful teaching writing and then measuring progress.”

The curriculum features a new writing measurement system that illuminates subtle changes in student writing. “New research shows that students with a range of disabilities can make progress in writing when measures are sensitive enough to detect the smallest progressions, and those measures inform instruction,” said Dr. Sturm. First Author guides educators through the process of evaluating writing from scribbling to paragraph writing. Qualitative measures include a 14-point Developmental Writing Scale, Text Type Diversity (writing for different purposes and audiences), and Topic Diversity (variance of writing topics over time). Productivity measures track the quantitative writing components such as the total number of intelligible and unique words. By capturing this data, educators can see a student’s writing strengths and needs, identify the instruction needed to attain the next level, and set standards-based IEP goals.

First Author Writing Curriculum is available for order immediately for $499 per classroom set.

The curriculum includes:

  • Curriculum Guide
    • First 30 days implementation guide
    • Accommodation guide
    • UDL guide
  • Instruction Guide
    • 80 Mini-lessons
    • 63 Tip Sheets
    • Classroom posters
  • Assessment Guide (plus standards-based IEP goals)
    • Developmental Writing Scale
    • Topic Diversity Measures
    • Text Type Diversity Measures
  • Teacher Resource CD

Resource Links:

To learn more about First Author® Writing Curriculum, please visit: http://donjohnston.com/firstauthorcurriculum

To watch Devin share his story about going to Six Flags with his class, please visit: http://vimeo.com/donjohnstoninc/devinwrites

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

February 24, 2015 — Don Johnston Releases Snap&Read Universal — Dynamic Text Leveling and Text Reading for Google Chrome

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lena Hanson
847-740-0749
lhanson@donjohnston.com

Download PDF

Don Johnston Releases Snap&Read Universal —
Dynamic Text Leveling and Text Reading for Google Chrome

VOLO, Ill., February 24, 2015 – Don Johnston Incorporated today released Snap&Read™ Universal, a new version of their popular reading accommodation that works as a Google Chrome™ Extension on Chromebooks, Mac, and Windows computers. The product helps students comprehend challenging text independently by allowing them to dynamically adjust the difficulty of text and hear the content read aloud. It works on-demand with Google Drive, email, websites, and even browser-rendered PDFs.

The release comes at a time when states are adopting new rigorous curriculum standards with increased reading expectations. English language learners (ELL) and students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and are facing more challenging texts, making it difficult for them to keep up in content-area classrooms. Snap&Read Universal accommodates the gap between the students’ independent reading levels and the content they’re expected to read.

Snap&Read Universal on Chromebook

Snap&Read Universal on Chromebook

“Many of these students can comprehend grade-level texts by simply hearing the content read aloud,” said Ben Johnston, Director of Marketing for Don Johnston Incorporated. “Others need more support with difficult passages and complex vocabulary. Snap&Read Universal is remarkable because it covers both— it reads text aloud and also lets students adjust the complexity level of their content. It’s fun to watch students’ eyes light up when they see complex vocabulary transform into words and phrases they understand.”

Snap&Read reading a PDF quiz on desktop

Snap&Read reading a PDF quiz on desktop

With new high-stakes state assessments going online, many read aloud accommodations are being built in. Traditionally, it was up to proctors to dictate the test to students who qualified for accommodations. Now, technology will take over in most cases and human proctors will be the exception. But, one of the prerequisites is that students have access to accommodations well ahead of the assessment. Principals, assistive technology specialists, ELL directors, and instructional technology coordinators must make the appropriate reading accommodations available.

Snap&Read_Universal_Logo_3inSnap&Read Universal is available for order immediately. K-12 school districts can purchase the accommodation schoolwide or per student seat for a yearly cost which includes home access across devices.

Snap&Read Universal can be previewed in a short video, released by Don Johnston.

Resource Links:

To learn more about Snap&Read Universal, please visit: http://donjohnston.com/snap-read

Snap&Read-Universal-video-thumbnail_175wTo watch a 3-minute demonstration video of Snap&Read Universal, please visit: http://vimeo.com/donjohnstoninc/snapread-universal-demo

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

September 30, 2014 — Don Johnston Releases uPAR™ — Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lena Hanson
847-740-0749
lhanson@donjohnston.com

Download PDF

Don Johnston Releases uPAR™ — Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading

VOLO, Ill., September 30, 2014 – Don Johnston Incorporated today released uPAR™, an online assessment that helps educators assess the reading accommodation needs of students. uPAR is the automated, universal version of the popular PAR protocol, available in print as a free download.

“Educators have every good intention when they recommend reading accommodations, but they haven’t had the right tools to make evidence-based decisions,” said Dr. Denise DeCoste, educator and co-author of uPAR. “We wanted to equip education teams with a tool that can be efficiently administered to groups of students — giving educators the data needed to make informed decisions and improve the educational outcomes for students.”

The problem of inaccurate recommendations is well documented. Helwig and Tindal (2003) found that when relying on subjective judgment, teachers were no better than chance at determining if an accommodation is appropriate for a student. Fuchs and Fuchs (2001) found that factors such as socioeconomics, race, and IQ were more influential to the decisions about reading accommodations than whether students actually benefited from the accommodations. These studies show that the need for an accommodation can’t be simply inferred from perceived reading ability. uPAR was designed to replace unreliable subjective judgment with data-driven decisions.

The release of uPAR comes ahead of the new online state assessments deploying this school year. These technology-based assessments promise to be more accommodation-friendly than traditional paper-and-pencil assessments. Text-to-speech accommodations will even be built into most state assessments and will be the preferred accommodation over human readers. Along with the new assessments, many states now require a diagnostic process to prove the need for accommodations prior to their use on the assessment. uPAR provides the data and documentation required.

uPAR-students-and-summary-graph_8in“Several school districts were instrumental in developing uPAR,” said Ben Johnston, Director of Marketing for Don Johnston Incorporated. “The thing that stood out to the educators we worked with was how unexpected much of the data was. They saw that some students increased three to four grade levels above their independent reading levels with an accommodation. They found that some students who were using accommodations actually performed worse with them. For these districts, once they see the data, they can’t imagine flying blind again.”

uPAR can be administered to 30 students at a time in one class period. Students can also take the uPAR assessment independently on just about any web-enabled device. The administration process is straightforward. Students read a series of passages online, first independently, and then with reading accommodations (text reader and simulated human reader). After each condition, they take a comprehension quiz. Depending on how well students do with each accommodation, subsequent reading passages adjust to become more difficult or easy. The results determine how well students perform under each condition. Group and individual data is immediately available to teachers, principals, special education directors, school psychologists, RtI coordinators, speech language pathologists, and other educators on the IEP team.

uPAR-individual-data_Ryan“uPAR is the first automated assessment of its kind,” said Ruth Ziolkowski, president of Don Johnston Incorporated. “For the first time educators can feel confident students have the right accommodations to comprehend their coursework and do well on the state test. In an age when it feels like there are far too many assessments that only confirm what teachers already know, uPAR produces data that educators can take immediate action on. I feel this decision-making tool will have far-reaching impact in the districts that adopt it.”

Resource Links:

To learn more about uPAR™ (Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading), please visit: http://donjohnston.com/upar/

To watch a preview of uPAR, please visit: http://vimeo.com/donjohnstoninc/upar-demo

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

September 22, 2014 — Don Johnston Releases Co:Writer Universal — Word Prediction on iPad, Desktop, and Chromebooks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lena Hanson
847-740-0749
lhanson@donjohnston.com

Download PDF

Don Johnston Releases Co:Writer Universal —
Word Prediction on iPad, Desktop, and Chromebooks

VOLO, Ill., September 22, 2014 – Don Johnston Incorporated today announced Co:Writer® Universal, a new version of their popular writing accommodation line used in over 5,000 districts. Co:Writer Universal integrates word prediction across the most popular writing devices — Chromebooks, iPads, as well as Mac and Windows desktop computers.

CoWriter-Universal-Devices

“We get letters from students who are writing for the first time with the help of Co:Writer,” said Ben Johnston, Director of Marketing for Don Johnston Incorporated. “It has a magical way of helping them turn their ideas into words and overcome writing challenges. With Co:Writer Universal, they’ll have access to their favorite writing tool on their favorite devices at school and at home.”

The release comes at a time when schools are adopting new rigorous curriculum standards with increased writing expectations. Students are expected to write opinions, compare and contrast essays, and sequences with academic vocabulary. Students in special education who struggle with writing are not exempt from these high expectations. Co:Writer uses word prediction to help these students improve word recall while correcting spelling and grammar as they write.

With new high-stakes state assessments on the horizon, principals, assistive technology specialists, and instructional technology coordinators are looking for ways to accommodate writing difficulties. Technology is being considered to help students achieve the standards and perform on the assessment. Many states have already adopted word prediction as a permissible testing accommodation including Texas, Virginia, and states in the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) Common Core testing consortium. For these states, Co:Writer Universal features can be configured to meet testing accommodation requirements.

Girl_CoWriter_appSchool districts will find new Co:Writer supports that help students bring academic vocabulary into their writings. Over four million Topic Dictionaries can be made instantly and cover all topics required by the new standards. Additionally, Co:Writer will automatically “scrape” open email contents and web pages for unique vocabulary, names, and places. These automatically integrate into Co:Writer’s Topic Dictionaries and are made available to students in real time as they write.

“I think it’s a positive move to bring writing back in focus,” said Ruth Ziolkowski, President of Don Johnston Incorporated. “Writing helps us synthesize and comprehend ideas and then share them. But, students with writing challenges like dyslexia and dysgraphia often miss out. They have rich thoughts, but can’t turn them into the right words. Co:Writer Universal helps these students participate, and by working on any device they write with, they’ll have more opportunities to write and express themselves than ever before.”

Co:Writer Universal can be previewed in a short video, released by Don Johnston.

Co:Writer Universal is available for order immediately. K-12 school districts can purchase the accommodation school-wide for a yearly cost, which includes home access.

Resource Links:

To learn more about Co:Writer® Universal, please visit: http://donjohnston.com/cowriter/

To watch a preview of Co:Writer Universal, please visit: http://vimeo.com/donjohnstoninc/cowriter-universal-demo

To learn more about how Co:Writer Universal works between platforms, please visit: http://donjohnston.com/wp-content/downloads/using/cowriter_universal_platform_comparison_chart.pdf

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

April 11, 2014 — Special Ed School Prepares for Common Core with New Reading Curriculum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lena Hanson
847-740-0749
lhanson@donjohnston.com

Download PDF

Special Ed School Prepares for Common Core with New Reading Curriculum

Miner School brings Start-to-Finish CORE Curriculum to students with complex support needs including autism

VOLO, Ill., April 11, 2014 – School leaders at Miner School, Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization, a therapeutic day school in Arlington Heights Illinois, implemented a new reading curriculum in two of their high school classrooms ahead of the new 2014-2015 alternate assessment. Their student outcomes are showcased in a short video, released by Don Johnston Incorporated.

Miner-school-video-thumbnailThe decision to add a new reading curriculum was brought on by the new Common Core State Standards which increase literacy expectations for all students, including those with significant cognitive disabilities. Of Miner School’s student population, 60-70% are on the autism spectrum and 30-40% face other significant learning challenges. The new standards require students to move beyond sight words and into foundational reading skills in order to succeed on the alternate assessment.

To accomplish this shift in expectations, the leaders at Miner School explored the available curriculum options and chose Start-to-Finish® CORE Curriculum from Don Johnston to give teachers the tools they need to build comprehensive reading skills. Start-to-Finish CORE Curriculum gives Miner School students access to the same works of literature as their peers—titles like Frankenstein, Huckleberry Finn, and Anne Frank. “For our students, it’s really helpful for them to have access to the kind of materials that other kinds of students have access to and are learning from,” states Miner school principal Dr. Von Schlegell. “That’s definitely a discrepancy they’ve felt in their educational experience. The normalizing experience about literature and the life lessons that are embedded within literature are really powerful for our students.”

The books included with CORE Curriculum gave many Miner School students their first opportunity to hold a chapter book and read with technology support. This helped improve student confidence levels and behavior. “I just think it’s amazing that Start-to-Finish allows us to have our students access the same literature that a typical functioning student might be accessing at their home school,” remarked Lisa Delgiudice, high school teacher at Miner School. “These books have given my students a sense of self-esteem that I probably have never witnessed before.”

The increased expectations that schools are facing require a reading program that builds skills required on the alternate assessment and can be implemented with fidelity immediately. “The curriculum gives teachers the information that they need to present materials to students so they can excel in all of the core reading skills,” states Mary Ann McGinn, Technology Coordinator at Miner School. “The lesson plans are laid out very simply and the teachers can take those lesson plans and get going right off the bat.”

The curriculum includes:

  • 15 chapter books and accompanying computer books on CD
  • Individual book folders, containing:
    • Daily comprehension lessons
    • Student worksheets and writing lessons
    • End of book tests and practice for alternate assessments
  • Making Words – 160 phonics lessons with reproducibles
  • Curriculum Guide – to support and guide teachers with implementation
  • Teacher Tools and Templates Folder, that contain:
    • Fluency and writing rubrics
    • Fidelity checklists
    • Data collection tools
    • Real Life Experiences – authentic learning activities to celebrate each book
  • Teacher Resource CD, containing:
    • Printable PDF of each book
    • Chapter quizzes and teacher answer sheets
    • Vocabulary and idiom lists
    • Student and teacher reproducibles
    • Backup of all the lessons for each book

stf_core_curriculum_header_border_v2

Start-to-Finish CORE Curriculum is available for shipping immediately. K-12 School districts can purchase the complete curriculum program for $499 per classroom set.

Resource Links:

To learn more about Miner School, please visit: http://www.nsseo.org/programs/miner-school

To learn more about Start-to-Finish® CORE Curriculum, please visit: http://donjohnston.com/start-to-finish-core-curriculum

To watch the video featuring Miner School’s perspectives on Start-to-Finish® CORE Curriculum, please visit: http://vimeo.com/donjohnstoninc/start-to-finish-core-curriculum-miner-school-intro

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

February 10, 2014 — Don Johnston Releases Start-to-Finish® Literacy Starters Curriculum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lena Hanson
847-740-0749
lhanson@donjohnston.com

Download PDF

Don Johnston Releases Start-to-Finish® Literacy Starters Curriculum

A new, research-based reading curriculum for students with complex needs

VOLO, Ill., February 10, 2014 – Don Johnston Incorporated has released Start-to-Finish® Literacy Starters Curriculum, a comprehensive literacy curriculum for students in grades 4-12 with complex support needs. The program guides teachers to build early reading skills through step-by-step lesson plans paired with age-appropriate picture books.

stfls_curriculum_header_border

“We believe all students should be on a path to reading, including students with cognitive disabilities and autism,” explains Ruth Ziolkowski, president of Don Johnston Incorporated. “Traditionally, many of these students were never expected to read, but new curriculum overhauls, like the Common Core, raise these expectations. We’re excited that Literacy Starters Curriculum is one of the first curricula designed to put students on the path to emergent reading.”

With Literacy Starters Curriculum, special education directors and curriculum coordinators can deliver a comprehensive, accessible reading curriculum to their students with significant cognitive disabilities. The curriculum was designed for emergent and non-readers in grades 4-12 who can identify most letters most of the time, are engaged and interested when books are read to them, and have a means of communication.

“Start-to-Finish Literacy Starters Curriculum was designed to meet the needs of the older beginning and transitional readers,” says Dr. Karen Erickson, Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and the lead researcher behind the curriculum. “Comprehension is addressed as a central component through book-specific lessons that help students relate what they are reading to life experiences while building important language understandings. In addition, teachers are provided with the ready-made lessons they need to address student literacy needs in a comprehensive way.” Dr. Erickson is recognized as a leader in special education curriculum development and has spent over a decade researching the best ways to assess and teach reading to children with the most severe disabilities.

A five-step instructional framework helps teachers deliver lessons paired with sections in each book. “The consistent lesson format is important for student skill development and it brings the added benefit of minimizing teacher planning time,” explains Mary Krenz, director of professional development for Don Johnston Incorporated. “Each lesson only requires 10 minutes of prep time from the special education classroom teacher, which gives them more time to plan individualized instruction.”

The curriculum includes:

  • 5 sets of Literacy Starters—each set includes 3 paperback books, 3 computer books on CD, and teacher materials (on CD)
  • Literacy Starters Curriculum Guide
  • 43 book-specific comprehension lessons
  • 50 phonics lessons with teacher directions
  • Reproducible worksheets
  • Literacy Starters Workshop Professional Development DVD—Training by Dr. Karen Erickson
  • Literacy Starters Teacher Guides Start-to-Finish

Literacy Starters Curriculum is available for shipping immediately. K-12 School districts can purchase the complete curriculum program for $499 per classroom set.

Request a Quote

Resource Links:

To learn more about Start-to-Finish® Literacy Starters Curriculum, please visit: http://donjohnston.com/literacy-starters-curriculum/

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About Don Johnston Incorporated

Don Johnston Incorporated (http://donjohnston.com) develops accessible reading and writing technology and curriculum products to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education and assistive technology company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology (AT) specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our curriculum, software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

April 30, 2012 — Don Johnston Takes Reading to the Cloud 
with Start-to-Finish® Online Accessible Library

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Ben Johnston
847-740-0749
bjohnston@donjohnston.com

Don Johnston Takes Reading to the Cloud 
with Start-to-Finish® Online Accessible Library

Thanks to the power of cloud computing, struggling readers can now use their iPads, mobile devices and laptop computers to read some of the most important and powerful books ever written.

April 30, 2012—Volo, IL— Accessible Library. Company founder Don Johnston said, “Thanks to the power of cloud computing, struggling readers can now use their iPads, mobile devices and laptop computers to read some of the most important and powerful books ever written. Just one license allows classrooms in an entire school to read books from school or home without buying copies for everyone.”

Before going to the cloud, Start-to-Finish built a strong fan base over a decade with computer, audiobook and paperback book sets. The product concept was a personal mission for Don Johnston who didn’t read a chapter book until the age of 15. “When we designed our first product line, we focused on helping students overcome every possible roadblock.” He said, “We did this at production costs so high that they may never be replicated.” Start-to-Finish authors are passionate about helping kids read. So books are written at a 2nd to 5th grade level and edited by specially trained SLPs. Characters and plots come to life with the help of professional narration. Built-in assistive technology helps students with disabilities. Data collection allows teachers to track the amount of time students spend reading and end-of-chapter quizzes show comprehension results.

Don Johnston has many letters from Start-to-Finish readers. During a recent visit with Don, a ninth grader named Ireland explained, “Start-to-Finish books don’t feel like other books. I can actually read them. I get lost in the stories.” She added, “These are the books that got me reading.”

stfonline_graphic_2012

Start-to-Finish Online Accessible Library includes a complete library of books tied to the common core curriculum standards. Titles include retold classics like Treasure Island and Macbeth, original mysteries, sports biographies, and non-fiction titles like For Liberty: The Story of the American Revolution, The Story of Anne Frank and Ancient Egypt.

“The accessibility magic is in the technology,” says Don. It supports professional narration that models intonation and fluency. Readers get support with alternative keyboards and switch scanning, allowing access with one or two switches.

K-12 school districts can purchase school-wide licenses that include all available titles for $429 per year per school. The Unlimited Site License includes unlimited school use for all students and also includes take-home rights.

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About Don Johnston Incorporated
Don Johnston develops accessible reading and writing technologies to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education company has partnered with literacy experts, AT specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home. Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Resource Links:
You can learn more about Start-to-Finish Online Accessible Library and watch a 5-minute demo.

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March 13, 2012 - Snap&Read™: A Simple Toolbar That Reads Any Text Online

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Ben Johnston
847-740-0749
bjohnston@donjohnston.com

Snap&Read™: A Simple Toolbar That Reads Any Text On-Screen

Snap&Read is a simple one-button toolbar that reads any text on-screen as it floats over any application.

March 13, 2012—Volo, IL— Don Johnston Incorporated today announced Snap&Read, a software toolbar that reads any text on-screen as it floats over any application. Its simple one-button interface reads both accessible and inaccessible text aloud from Flash websites, Word docs, PDFs, web-based tests, web-delivered curriculum, and even dialog boxes.

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To read text aloud, users launch the Snap&Read floating toolbar and select text on-screen. That text is automatically read in high quality text-to-speech voices. Snap&Read also features built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to read text delivered through inaccessible formats like Flash and text-based images.

Snap&Read was designed to make the curriculum more accessible for students with disabilities attending K-12 districts. “We made Snap&Read so affordable and easy to use that districts could put it everywhere and implement it right away,” explains Ruth Ziolkowski, president of Don Johnston Incorporated. “A lot of districts are striving for Universal Design for Learning, and Snap&Read is a step in the right direction.”

Being so easy to use, Snap&Read requires minimal training to learn. “While all of our assistive technology tools are designed so that educators can learn them in 30-minutes, Snap&Read is so simple, it can be trained in five-minutes,” explains Kevin Johnston, director of product design for Don Johnston Incorporated. “The simplicity is a huge benefit. Students with disabilities already have enough challenges learning to read and write. Their assistive technology tools should be so simple and intuitive that they can get up and running instantly. That was one of our goals when we designed Snap&Read.”

Snap&Read is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems. The software can be installed on computer hard drives or it can run directly from USB/Flash drives without installing to a hard drive. This is a huge benefit to schools that only install software once or twice a year.

Snap&Read is scheduled to ship this spring. K-12 School districts can purchase an Unlimited Snap&Read site license for just $399 per school through special introductory pricing or $79 per computer. School districts purchasing district-wide qualify for a discount. The Unlimited Site License includes unlimited school use for all students as well as take-home rights. Colleges and universities can purchase Snap&Read for $799 (institutions with less than 10,000 students enrolled) or $999 (10,000 or more students enrolled).

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About Don Johnston Incorporated
Don Johnston develops accessible reading and writing technologies to support K-12 and postsecondary students with cognitive, physical, and learning disabilities. Since 1980, the special education company has partnered with literacy experts, AT specialists, SLPs, OTs, special education teachers, university researchers and DSS coordinators to improve access to learning and to increase reading and writing independence. Tens of thousands of students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, down-syndrome and diverse learning challenges use our software and hardware devices to accommodate their learning needs in schools, the workforce and at home. Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Resource Links:
Learn more about Snap&Read and watch a 5-minute demo.

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January 25, 2012 - Improv™: New Augmentative Communication Software Gives AAC Users Opportunities for Faster, Deeper and More Impromptu Conversations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Ben Johnston
847-740-0749
bjohnston@donjohnston.com

Improv™: New Augmentative Communication Software Gives AAC Users Opportunities for Faster, Deeper and More Impromptu Conversations

Improv gives AAC users new options to engage in faster, impromptu and more meaningful conversations.

January 25, 2012—Volo, IL— Don Johnston, the assistive technology developer known for its literacy-based programs for individuals with disabilities, just released Improv™, its new AAC software at the 2012 Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, FL.

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Improv gives AAC users new options to engage in faster, impromptu and more meaningful conversations. The technology brings a whole new approach to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and is designed for individuals who are non-verbal, but have some literacy skills and beginning concepts of letters.

Improv will significantly increase a user’s independence and the ability to socially interact to connect with teachers, friends and family members on a more personal level. Each time a person communicates with Improv, the software automatically learns the new words and statements communicated through the device. Those learned words and phrases are called up quickly in future conversations.

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Using alphabetic input (text), Improv does not limit the user to symbols like traditional devices. While alphabetic input is typically slower and requires a high level of literacy, Improv leverages the popular Co:Writer word prediction engine which speeds up communication and becomes a voice for beginning writers. Users simply tap out a few letters of a word and Co:Writer expands their thoughts into complete phrases and sentences; then Improv reads it aloud.

“We are part of a written society where email, social media and texting play as much a role in our dialect as in-person communication,” said Ben Johnston, Director of Marketing for the company. However, using the alphabetic system for AAC users requires a little magic—it has to speed up writing and adapt to beginning writers.Improv does this through Co:Writer and new innovations like Instant Topic Dictionaries and Phrase Prediction.”

Instant Topic Dictionaries build new vocabulary on the fly from nearly any topic like a favorite book, band, restaurant or vacation spot. With Phrase Prediction, users can communicate in sentences with just a few touches on the screen. Phrases are saved in lists and can be scheduled around daily activities, school classes, field trips or doctor visits. Improv’s software ‘brain’ intelligently learns the user’s communication style and auto-adapts its dictionaries for future communication.

Kevin Johnston, Director of Product Design for Don Johnston Incorporated said, “One of our first collaborators and a person who truly inspired our development process is Dr. Kristin Rytter.” A quadriplegic since birth, Dr. Rytter used Co:Writer in the early 90s to write and communicate. She completed her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of Washington and used Co:Writer to write her autobiography, People Who Raised Me Beyond. “She has amazing fortitude and gave us immeasurable perspective and insight,” adds Johnston.

Many U.S. schools and hospitals tested Improv during development, including K. White, an Assistive Technology Specialist for a Wisconsin public school. Ms. White used the program with eight elementary children, all non-verbal with fairly mild to severe autism and shared important insights from both a teaching and user perspective. “Educators and parents learned a few important lessons. First, non-verbal children communicate more deeply when they can select specific words (usually nouns) to express their thoughts, rather than in categories. Second, Improv’s ability to automatically accumulate students’ words and phrases to help build their own life stories and communicate from this collection is incredibly motivating. The technology engaged students. They could now share more of their own ideas in relevant phrases and sentences.”

Improv is compatible with any Windows-based computer, tablet or dedicated AAC device. The software is easy to set up with no programming. Parents and practitioners who work with individuals with autism, aphasia, ALS, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cognitive disabilities such as Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs), Assistive Technology Specialists and hospital clinicians will want to watch a brief demo.

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About Don Johnston Incorporated
Since 1980, Don Johnston Incorporated has developed assistive technologies and literacy programs to break the cycle of failure for students in schools. For students who cannot read, write, spell or communicate well through traditional teaching methods, these literacy programs and adaptive devices are scientifically designed to best accommodate students’ learning styles and needs. Find us on Twitter and Facebook. Educators and families interested in learning best practices about AT and proven literacy strategies, should sign up for the QuickTopic e-newsletters.

Resource Links:
Learn more about Improv and watch brief a demo.

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