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

Director, Center for Literacy & Disability Studies

Professor & Interim Coordinator of PhD Studies, Division of Speech & Hearing Sciences

Phone: (919)-966-8828
Fax: (919)-843-3250
Email Karen


  • 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 ( 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 ( and Project Core ( 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 ( to learn more about one of the camps that focuses on students who use augmentative and alternative communication.

Courses Taught

  • AHSC 914, Academic Writing

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