Along the journey to a model program: improving literacy for children with disabilities in the Philippines

In the Philippines, Perkins brings measurable improvements to schools with a focus on literacy skills.

Ariela Reading

Children with disabilities around the world often lack exposure to literacy or opportunities to establish these critical skills in school. In the Philippines, Perkins supported two schools to improve access to literacy for their students with sensory disabilities, students like Ariela. 

Fourteen year-old Ariela likes to play “pretend cooking” and enjoys going out with her sister and parents. Before Perkins began working with her school, Ariela had never been given a reading assessment and spent most of her time in a self-contained classroom for students with disabilities. In this class, she was very timid and she rarely socialized with her classmates.

A visually impaired youth points while reading large print text.

Establishing a baseline

To set clear goals for these schools and enhance quality learning opportunities for Ariela and her peers, it was critical to understand current practices, strengths, and opportunities for growth at each of the schools. Use of the localized Perkins Quality Indicators endorsed by the Philippines Department of Education allowed us to benchmark best practices of quality learning for children with disabilities. 

In using this tool, we gained a holistic understanding of how the schools were performing, and were able to set priorities for improved practices. We came to understand that the schools did not have the knowledge or skills to assess literacy of students with sensory disabilities, which in turn made it difficult to set goals for improved literacy. They were also missing out on key opportunities to integrate literacy throughout the day, for example during functional activities. 

With this valuable information, we knew exactly what to work on.

Teacher engages in conversation with her students using pictures as cues.

Path to improving foundational literacy

With clear goals in mind, we worked with our partners to bring our technical expertise to the schools, offering training, hands-on mentoring, and robust follow-up sessions. Through this support, the teachers learned: 

The introduction of goal-setting for her students has brought increased clarity for one of the teachers who benefitted from these activities.

“Now there is focus on what I can teach my students for the whole year. And now, I know if my teaching is effective because I can track the progress my students are making.”

With a clearer picture of her reading ability coupled with concrete goals, Ariela started making quick progress in her reading. She went from random placement of letters and words on the page to writing in a straight line; from poor reading comprehension to a clear understanding of simple, short sentences. 

Perhaps most exciting for Ariela, was the fact she was able to start attending a mainstream classroom for half of her day. As her access to learning increased, she gained confidence and started participating with enthusiasm in class. Now, she is happy to socialize with her classmates! While her literacy skills continue to increase toward the incremental goals set for the year, she also has a long-term goal of spending 100% of her time in the mainstream classroom. 

Two students sitting at their desk raise their hands, ready to give a response.

A strong foundation for a brighter future

Ariela’s progress is just one example from these two classrooms. Data collected to track progress toward literacy goals showed an upward trend toward reaching literacy goals for those students whose goals were tracked.

Upon completing a follow-up assessment of the schools using Perkins Quality Indicators, both schools demonstrated an increase in overall program quality, and showed improvement in seven of nine areas. 

Support to these two schools was made possible under the USAID-funded project Gabay (Guide): Strengthening Inclusive Education for Blind, Deaf and Deafblind Children in collaboration with Resources for the Blind, Inc. 

Student using technology for digital literacy activities: social media

Digital Literacy for Students with Multiple Disabilities

Graphic with the word "fonts" in a thick bold font and a thin italics font style.

My favorite free fonts for print disabilities

Kindergarten Logan in a literacy small group reading his illustrated braille book.

Early elementary: Tactile pictures and drawing, engaging students in literacy activities