Latch On – A programme Overview

Programme Overview:

Literacy & Technology Hands On (Latch-On) is two-year literacy programme for adults with intellectual disability. The programme provides opportunities for adults with Down Syndrome to commence and continue their literacy development.
Latch-On is a four module literacy programme offered to adults with an intellectual disability. The programme is taught twice weekly over two years by a qualified teacher who has been accredited to teach the programme. The teacher is assisted by a tutor (class of 6 students or less) or two tutors (class of 7 – 12 students). The maximum class size is 12 students. Each module comprises 13 – 15 weeks of classes. A minimum of 10 hours per week is recommended.
Latch-On adopts a socio-cultural approach to literacy and uses a combination of technology and more traditional methods of literacy instruction to enhance the literacy development of adults with intellectual disabilities.


A unique feature of the Latch on programme is that it has a strong foundation in educational research and practice. From the beginning (1998) research has been an integral component of the programme. Research findings indicate that individuals with intellectual disabilities have achieved levels of literacy that were once regarded as unattainable. Such achievements have been possible because of an increased recognition of the need to maintain literacy as part of lifelong learning. Longitudinal studies carried out by the UQ supports the view that when adults with intellectual disability are provided with opportunities to broaden their literacy education through appropriate teaching and learning strategies; they continue to develop and improve their language and literacy skills

Teaching Methods

Research tells us that literacy encompasses a set of skills and strategies that are wider than the traditional reading and writing approaches had suggested. Our contemporary understandings of literacy now include a set of literacy elements described as ‘multiliteracies’ (as depicted in the image below). The learner with Down syndrome needs to engage with texts in print, oral and multi-media domains – in a wide range of contexts, for different purposes in order to understand the world in which they live.

Reading is a complex, dynamic activity. It involves actively constructing meaning from texts. To do this a reader must be able to understand letters and symbols and how they come together in words and sentences to form connected texts. A reader must be able to ask questions about a text for example: does it make sense, do I agree with the ideas or is this text accurate? Perhaps the area of greatest importance in teaching reading is motivation. Modifying existing texts or creating new texts to suit the interests and needs of the learner ensure that all learners have the best opportunities to construct meaning from text.
Writing: Learners need to be supported as they develop control over the processes of composing and shaping texts. They need to write in different genres, for example, poems, recounts, instructions, explanations, articles for a newsletter, and letters. Contexts for writing should be varied and involve meaningful tasks. Learners need real audiences for the publication of their writing so they can begin to understand relationships between reading and writing.
Talking and Listening: Speaking supports literacy activities as well as being an important aspect of literacy in its own right. Talking is central in Latch-On. By talking, learners use language to communicate effectively. Every literacy activity should begin with talking and talking is an integral component of all reading and writing activities, for example, brainstorming, talking about ideas, talking about experiences, and talking about the task.
Technology: The Latch-On program has focused on using computers that learners would encounter in their everyday environment – home/libraries/workplace. Computers are no longer a tool for an elite group; they can provide opportunities for diverse users. Using computers to word process writing, to search the web, and to send and receive e-mails are regular activities in the program.
Viewing: Visual literacy is developed through activities such as viewing and discussing pictures, illustrations, photos, TV programmes and movies. These activities also provide a bridge from talking to reading and writing tasks as the verbal analysis of concrete objects such as photos both aids memory and provides a focus for such tasks.
Latch-On adopts a method of theme-based teaching; which allows for differentiation of work for students of varying levels of ability. Each lesson comprises the following varied components in terms of teaching methods and materials: Sight word development, vocabulary development, letter recognition/phonics/phonemic awareness, grammar/syntax, comprehension, cognitive development and writing genre.

Long-term outcomes:

  • Growth in a broad range of literacy skills in print, oral and multi-media contexts
  • Opportunities to use technology
  • Improved independence and assertiveness
  • Establishment of social networks
  • Increased ability to participate independently in the broader community


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