Karen Erickson, PhD

David E. & Dolores (Dee) Yoder Distinguished Professor of Literacy and Disability Studies   Karen Erickson

Professor, Division of Speech & Hearing Sciences

Director, Center for Literacy & Disability Studies 
Phone: (919)-966-8828
Fax: (919)-843-3250
Email: karen_erickson@med.unc.edu
Personal website: http://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds 


  • PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1995
  • MS, State University of New York, Albany, 1988
  • BS, Cornell University, 1987

Personal Statement

I am a former special education teacher who worked in a variety of classroom settings supporting students with a range of disabilities. My heart lies with children who have the most significant disabilities, particularly those who do not use speech as their primary means of communication. Over the past decade I have been a part of a team doing exciting work focused on communication, literacy, and academic instruction and assessment for students with significant disabilities. I worked with Dr. Gary Bishop (https://www.cs.unc.edu/~gb/) to create Tar Heel Reader, an open-source, universally accessible online library of books for beginning readers.  I am also part of the the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment Consortium (http://dynamiclearningmaps.org) and Project Core (http://project-core.com). I continue to work directly with teachers, therapists, and students with significant disabilities as often as possible, including during intensive summer camps.  Check out Camp ALEC (http://www.campalec.com/home/) to learn more about one of the camps that focuses on students who use augmentative and alternative communication.

Courses Taught

  • AHSC 914, Academic Writing
  • SPHS 762, School-aged Language and Learning Disorders

Research/Clinical Interests

  • Assessment of Reading and Writing
  • Literacy Instruction
  • Alternative assessment techniques for persons with significant disabilities
  • Emergent literacy development across disabilities including Rett syndrome, autism, and young children who have visual impairments and blindness
  • Beginning reading instruction for adolescents and adults with significant disabilities
  • School-based systems change

Recent Publications

Zoski, J., & Erickson, K. (in press). Morpheme-based instruction in kindergarten:  A shared reading approach. The Reading Teacher.

Zoski, J. & Erickson, K. (in press). Multi-component linguistic awareness intervention for at-risk kindergarteners. Communication Disorders Quarterly.

Erickson, K. (in press). Comprehensive literacy instruction, interprofessional collaborative practice, and students with severe disabilities. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology.

Erickson, K. & Quick, N. (2016).  The profiles of students with significant cognitive disabilities and known hearing loss. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 1-4. doi:10.1093/deafed/enw052   

Erickson, K. & Geist, L. (2016). The profiles of students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex communication needs. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. doi:10.1080/07434618.206.1213312

Brady, N. C., Bruce, S. Goldman, A., Erickson, K., Mineo, B., Ogletree, B.T., Paul, D., Romski, M. A., Sevcik, R., Siegel, E., Schoonover, J., Snell, M., Sylvester, L., Wilkinson, K. (2016).  Communication supports and services for individuals with severe disabilities:  Guidance for assessment and intervention. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 121(2), 121-138.

Bock, A. & Erickson, K.A. (2015). The influence of teacher epistemology and practice on student engagement in literacy learning. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 40(2), 138-153.

Nellenbach, K., Zoski, J., Diamond, J., & Erickson, K. (2015). A graphomorphemic approach to identifying and selecting a set of high utility, stable affixes common to the technical vocabulary of science. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36(06), 1441-1457.

D’Ardenne, C., Barnes, D. G., Hightower, E. S., Lamason, P.R., Mason, M., Patterson, P. C., Stephens, N., Wilson, C. E., Smith, V. H., & Erickson, K. A. (2013). PLCs in action: Innovative teaching for struggling grade 3-5 teachers. The Reading Teacher, 67(2), 143-151.