Reading and Autism
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to understand language, communicate, play and relate to others. As so often the disorder affects the child’s language, this can have a strong effect on the child’s reading. But, this is not to say that reading and autism are mutually exclusive.
There are a number of different disorders that fall within the broader category of Pervasive Developmental Disorder or PDD, which include:
• Autism Spectrum Disorder
• Asperger’s Disorder
• Rett’s Disorder
• Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
• Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
As all of these disorders fall within the broader category of PDD, there is no fixed set of behaviors or markers of autism, instead, some or all of the following behaviors will be evident, either to a lesser or greater degree.
Some Signs of Autism
• Problems with communication (using and understanding language)
• Difficulty relating to others
• Difficulty with changes in routine or change in familiar surroundings
• Repetitive body movements or behavior
Of course, no child is the same, which holds true for a child’s experience of autism or PDD. Some children do not speak; others may speak but have language that features repeated phrases or conversations. Children with better language skills may concentrate on certain topics and may have difficulty with abstract ideas that are not that concrete.
While language is often strongly affected by autism, as previously stated, this does not mean that reading and autism do not work together. It is only that autism presents a unique set of challenges for the child, the parents, and teachers. While all of these disorders manifest themselves in different ways, educational approaches to these disorders may be quite similar, particularly because language is so often affected by autism.
Many educators have found that children with one of the autism spectrum disorders may struggle with verbal instruction, or the decoding of a written text, but seem to thrive with instruction that incorporates anything visual, particularly visuals that correspond seamlessly with the text with which they are engaging.
In regards to reading and autism, the learning environment needs to be organised so that the reading instruction is structured and predictable. Lessons need to follow a predictable format so that the autistic child can become familiar and comfortable with the learning program, and know what to expect. All learning should be visual as well as aural and written, particularly if the student enjoys and responds well to visuals. And parents as well as teachers should be involved at all levels of instruction so that the learning activities and approaches can carry over into the home as well as school.
Structured reading programs are great tools to use for children with autism. ABC Reading Eggs offers readers a whole suite of instruction in an engaging and child-friendly learning world which kids enjoy interacting with. From the first moment that a child uses ABC Reading Eggs, they are immersed in a highly visual learning environment that is fun and enjoyable to use.
The very first lessons for pre-readers and very early readers take place in a safe and friendly virtual world, moving the kids from a zoo, to a playground to a theme park. Kids love following the maps in this virtual world, and moving their character along the ‘path’ which is easily viewed on the screen, and looks similar to a board from a board game.
But the lessons, which are reading games for kids, aren’t the only fun element of the program. The ABC Reading Eggs programs encourages kids to complete learning activities and continue working through the program by motivating them with age-appropriate reward systems. These reward systems are visual, high-interest, compelling and child-centered, and are activated each time a child completes a learning activity or a lesson.
The lessons follow a predictable format, and the rewards follow a predictable pattern as well. ABC Reading Eggs also offers both parents and teachers a means of instruction that can be used both at home and at school. Students are able to log-in online from anywhere in order to complete lessons and continue their literacy learning, which supports both the child with autism and their reading, as well as the teachers and parents in their educational work.
My students have found this program to be invaluable to their learning throughout this year. I teach students with autism. I have a student who knew around 8-10 letters of the alphabet at the beginning of the year, and through class work and Reading Eggs, he is now reading at a level 4 PM and writing simple words. Jenine Watson, Latham Primary School
I would just like to say how wonderful this program is. My son has autism and has made more progress with this program than any other method we have employed at home and school so far. I think you should approach the autism societies across the world and promote Reading Eggs to them. I think they would find it invaluable. Thank you for helping my son to read in a most enjoyable manner. Annie
Thank you Reading Eggs. My son is 3 and diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has a significant speech delay and is responding so well to your program because he loves books and computers. We are only up to level 9 and already Reilly is reading words and saying the words and letters as he reads them…Reading Eggs is just what we have been searching for and has contributed to our son’s speech significantly!!! You should consider marketing this for children with autism spectrum disorders. Linda