How to Teach a Child with Autism to Read
Learning to Read with Autism
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can face distinct challenges in learning to read. ASD is a spectrum, so the range of challenges is different for every child. But for many young children with ASD, it affects the development of foundational language and social skills. This impacts reading readiness, comprehension skills, and a child’s overall approach to learning.
This is why it’s especially important to explicitly provide children with ASD the tools to help them become successful readers.
3 Ways to Spark an Interest in Reading for Children with Autism
One of the most important things you can do to help a child with autism to read is to promote an active interest in reading.
Here are three easy way to nurture your child’s interest in reading:
1. Start early
While it’s ideal for ALL children to develop an enthusiasm for learning to read, it’s especially important for children with ASD. Reading and sharing books together can help not only reading, but also social skills. So start reading early!
Many children with ASD thrive on repetition and routine, so don’t be afraid to read the same story again and again. Each time you read, you can build on pre-reading skills by asking your child to turn the pages, point to different characters or retell the story.
Reading Eggs has an online library of 2500 books to help you choose the right book for your child’s ability and interests. Start your free trial here.
2. Follow interests
Make sure to choose books about topics your child enjoys. If your child loves trucks or sharks, incorporate those aspects of his or her life into the reading process.
3. Ask the right questions
Ask comprehension questions suited to your child’s strengths. Children with ASD are usually more capable of answering literal comprehension questions rather than inferential, so focus on Who, What, Where and When questions after reading.
To help you, every book in the Reading Eggs programme has some literal questions at the end to build comprehension skills.
4 Tips to Help Teach an Autistic Child to Read
You’ve piqued an interest in reading and now you face the challenge of how to help your child with ASD learn to read.
Children with ASD don’t always develop early literacy skills in the same order or along the same timeline as other children. Supporting their skills development requires structure and extra patience, but most importantly an acknowledgement of the incremental improvements, no matter how small.
Using direct instruction, repeating skills and strategies, and acknowledging achievement all help motivate children with ASD to learn to read.
Here are four helpful tips for teaching an autistic child to read:
1. Provide direct and explicit phonics instruction
Direct phonics instruction for reading requires explicitly teaching the 44 consonant and vowel phonemes in a logical sequenced curriculum.
For children with ASD, explicit teaching effectively breaks learning-to-read into manageable chunks.
Current best practice in pedagogical learn-to-read research supports short, phonics-based instructional sessions. Reading Eggs explicitly and systematically teaches letters and sounds to build letter recognition and alphabet knowledge. Each letter/sound correspondence is explicitly taught and every lesson can be regularly repeated.
By bringing together explicit, systematic teaching with interactive, engaging activities, Reading Eggs is able to deliver a programme that helps unlock reading for children.
2. Give very clear instructions
All children get the best chance at success if they understand exactly what they need to do. For many children with ASD, having one step of verbal instruction at a time helps them to prioritise new information.
All instructions in Reading Eggs are given in a succinct, explicit way to help children understand the activities. It breaks the task into short, manageable chunks. The clear instructions can be heard as many times as needed before beginning each activity in every lesson. Many activities repeat across lessons and this helps children become familiar with what they need to do, so that they can focus on learning new skills.
3. Teach reading comprehension strategies
As mentioned earlier, children with ASD are often better at literal comprehension, requiring them explicitly taught inferential reading comprehension skills.
Reading strategies like self-monitoring and vocabulary instruction can all help learners with ASD understand the texts they read.
Reading Eggspress (which follows on from Reading Eggs) teaches inferential reading strategies in easy-to-follow lessons to give children—including those with ASD—the best chance at unlocking reading success.
4. Reward progress
It’s important to acknowledge any improvement in your child’s reading ability, no matter how small.
In each Reading Eggs lesson, children complete a range of activities where their efforts are acknowledged and their progress rewarded. They are given immediate, constructive feedback as they move through each stage of the programme. This helps children know they are making progress and feel motivated to continue.
See how Reading Eggs can help children with autism learn to read
We offer all new parents a free trial to see how Reading Eggs works for their child.
It only takes a few minutes to get started—and unlike other reading programmes, you won’t need to provide your credit card details until you’re totally confident it’s right for you.
Try Reading Eggs here to see how your child’s reading and comprehension skills can improve in just weeks.
American Psychiatric Association (2017) What is autism spectrum disorder, as retrieved 12 October 2017 from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder
Lanter, E. & Watson, L. (2008). Promoting literacy in students with ASD: The basics for the SLP. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 33-43.
AU: National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (2005) Teaching reading: Report and recommendations. Commonwealth of Australia: Australian Capital Territory.
UK: Rose, J. (2006) Independent review of the teaching of early reading. London: Department for Education and Skills, as retrieved 12 October 2017 from http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5551/2/report.pdf
US: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000) Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769), U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C, as retrieved 12 October 2017 from www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/documents/report.pdf
Ganz J, Flores M. The effectiveness of direct instruction for teaching language to children with autism spectrum disorders: Identifying materials. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2009(39)75–83. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0602-6
Mahdavi, J. N. & Tensfeldt, L. (2013). Untangling reading comprehension strategy instruction: Assisting struggling readers in the primary grades. Preventing School Failure, 57 (2), 77–92.