Reading Comprehension ASD 1

Reading Difficulties and ASD
Patricia Rakovic
• Based on the notion of a “ culture of
autism”( Mesibov et al. 2005) the way
individuals with ASD think and behave
should not be seen as deficits. Rather,
literacy experiences should build on each
individual’s strengths and interests
• Reading instruction therefor requires
differentiated instruction and support
Be discerning & selective
when reading comprehension
research, data, reports, techniques,
recommendations, and strategies to determine
The Fit with ASD
thru the
ASD lens
Autism, Cognition and Reading
• Literacy skills provide the foundation for
improving quality of life for all regardless of ability
of functioning level.
• Skilled readers do the following
– Access relevant background knowledge
– Make inferences
– Monitor reading comprehension
– Demonstrate fluency
– Understand structure and vocabulary of text
– Integrate relevant information from their own
world to make meaning
Autism, Cognition and Reading
• It is important to have an understanding of the
autism to be able to provide quality literacy
• Individuals with ASD my be able to fluently decode
because of their strength of word calling and
decoding but struggle with comprehension.
• Characteristics of ASD include differences in
– Socialization
– Communication
– Restricted interests and behaviors
Characteristics that impact Reading
• Three models of constructs provide
insight into the nature of ASD:
–Theory of Mind
–Executive Function
–Central Coherence
Theory of Mind
• First introduced by Baron-Cohen, Leslie and
Frith refers to two important abilities
– The capacity to recognize the thoughts,
beliefs, and intentions of others and
understand that these mental states are
different than our own.
– Using this understanding to predict the
behavior of others.
Theory of Mind
• Challenges with perspective taking impacts
reading or listening comprehension as one
needs to understand how and why a
character behaves in a certain way
• Literal interpretation of language, intense
interest in certain topics and challenges in
engaging in shared experiences impact
literacy development.
• Will have difficulty making predictions and
Executive Function
• Executive function processes are critical for
planning and carrying out goal-directed behavior
while tuning out unnecessary distractions or
information. Some of these processes include
planning and initiation, working memory, inhibition,
cognitive flexibility and fluency.
• Some individuals have difficulty inhibiting responses
or managing impulses
• Research suggests that while individuals with ASD
are able to access background knowledge, applying
the background knowledge across text can be
Executive Function
• Monitoring and self-correcting is critical for
accurate understanding; difference in attention,
memory, organizing and planning may make
monitoring and self-correction challenging for
individuals with ASD
• These differences impact literacy experiences
Central Coherence
• Neuro-typicals tend to focus on meaning or the
big picture
• Individuals with ASD focus on the specific details
• Weak central coherence impacts literacy
development related to making meaning from
text, as selecting important details to create a
larger picture becomes critical to comprehension
• The ability to identify relationships between
words, concepts and/or experiences leads to
missed connections
• As the complexity of text increases the ability of
individuals with ASD to integrate information for
meaningful purposes may be challenged.
Language Comprehension
• Differences exist in how individuals with ASD
construct meaning from text. These differences
– Acquiring certain vocabulary forms before
others ( i.e, nouns before verbs)
– Difficulty using bound morphemes( play versus
– Challenges with pronouns
Examining the Reading Process:
What is Reading?
Get on the same page to define,
understand and measure reading!
Defining Reading
• Our definitions of reading guide our
understanding and views
• Different reading assessments are based on
different definitions of things like
The Simple View of Reading
Reading is the product of the processes
(x not +). It involves language and cognition.
It is not as simple as it sounds, because the
processes of decoding and understanding are
complex and inter-related
If you can Decode and have Linguistic
Comprehension, you are reading!
Gough & Tunmer, 1986
The Simple View of Reading
Problems can arise with D, C or both →
Problems with “D only” can be called dyslexia
Problems with “C only” can be called hyperlexia
(different than precocious hyperlexia)
“Strong mechanical word recognition with
comparatively poor comprehension”
Grigorenko, E. L., Klin, A, Pauls, D. L., Senft, R., Hooper, C., &
Volkmar, F. (2002). A descriptive study of hyperlexia in a clinically
referred sample of children with developmental delays.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(1), 3-12.
Hyperlexia is a learning disability
with POOR
Grigorenko, E. L., Klin, A., & Volkmar, F. (2003). Annotation: Hyperlexia:
Disability or Superability? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,
44(8), 1079-1091.
A more complex definition of reading
National Reading Panel (2005), p.28
“A form of dynamic thinking [that] includes
• interpreting information through the filter of one’s
own knowledge and beliefs,
• using the author’s organizational plan to think about
information (or imposing one’s own organization on
• inferring what the author does not tell explicitly,
as well as many other cognitive actions.”
What is comprehension?
The purpose and the essence of reading
Effective Literacy Instruction
• Research has indicated that engaged behavior
is the single best predictor of academic gains
for students with disabilities
• Students with ASD demonstrate differences in
executive functioning that make engagement
in the classroom challenging
Constructing Meaning
1. Understand the text at the word and
sentence level, “word knowledge”
2. Identify relevant information
Constructing Meaning
3. Relate, compare and integrate to what
is already known a.k.a. “world
knowledge” or prior knowledge
4. Internalize to own experience
Constructing Meaning
5. Create a new construct or idea, the gist
or meaning
6. Store the new idea
7. Retrieve upon demand
Factors contributing to
reading comprehension
Fluent word recognition skills
Vocabulary knowledge
World knowledge
Comprehension monitoring
Active use of comprehension strategies
Pressley, M. (2001). Comprehension Instruction: What Makes
Sense Now, What Might Make Sense Soon
What good comprehenders do
Know why they are reading
Understand the point
Relate to prior knowledge
Relate to other text
See cause and effect
Interpret characters’ actions and emotions
Understand the author’s intentions
What good comprehenders do
• Monitor understanding
• Use strategies flexibly and in
– Re-read
– Look back
Mark, highlight
5 types of reading comprehension
All five types of reading comprehension may be challenges
for readers with ASD who can decode but don’t understand
(Adapted from Salvia & Ysseldyke, 2004. Assessment in
inclusive and special education, ninth edition. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin.)
1. Literal comprehension
Understanding explicit material in text
2. Inferential comprehension
Understanding ideas beyond the literal text by
interpreting, synthesizing and extending
3. Critical comprehension
Meaning derived by evaluating, analyzing, and
making judgments about material that was
4. Affective comprehension
Relating to the material at a personal and
emotional level.
5. Lexical comprehension
Making sense of text by knowing the meaning
of key vocabulary words.
The language-literacy link
• Understanding oral language
• Language processing
• Auditory processing
Difficulties with speaking, listening and
understanding affect literacy:
reading and writing
The language-literacy link
• A different timeline/uneven development
• Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary
(number of words)
• Vocabulary Gap
• Literal and concrete vs. figurative, abstract and
• Difficulty with images, imagination & imagery
Affects Comprehension
• Good readers ask questions before, during and after
• Generating questions before reading helps establish
purpose and focus.
• Questioning text while reading helps integrate the
material with background knowledge.
• Questioning while reading is a way to monitor
• After reading, good readers ask questions about the
meaning of what they read and how to apply the
information to their own lives.
Shades of Meaning Activity
• Teaches synonyms, expands vocabulary
• Reveals the hidden meaning behind words
• Teaches connotation: the emotion and
intention attached to specific words
• Clarifies the perspective and intention of
characters or the author (social thinking)
Shades of Meaning
RATE (+ – or =) & RANK (light to heavy)
Effective Literacy Instruction
Well implemented instructional strategies can
build upon identified strengths.
These include:
– Visual spatial processing
– Keen awareness of visual and/or cognitive
– Rote memory
– Attachment to routine
Effective Literacy Instruction
Well implemented instructional strategies can
build upon identified strengths.
These include:
– Visual spatial processing
– Keen awareness of visual and/or cognitive
– Rote memory
– Attachment to routine
Comprehension Activity:
Social Thinking and Theory of Mind
1. In random order, write down two things about
yourself that are true, AND one “believable lie” on
an index card.
2. A volunteer will read to the class
3. Try to guess which statement is not true. Talk
about it!
4. .Relationship to comprehension
R &R affects C
Poverty of Experience
is not experienced only by the poor
• Perseveration: The knowledge and experience base
in ASD are narrow and deep instead of shallow and
• Limited background knowledge and exposure to a
wide range of topics…and the language that goes
with it.
• Affects vocabulary, word knowledge, world
knowledge and conversation
• Disinterest in stories about non-preferred topics, less
motivation, less reading:
Effective Literacy Instruction
Six categories of instructional strategies with strong
evidenced based are:
• Organized classroom environment
• Visual supports
• Structured instruction
• Curricular modifications
• Embedded supports
• Maintenance and generalization planning
Effective Literacy Instruction
Two steps to assist in clarifying expectations and
reducing competing information are
• Segment the space
– Clear boundaries to specify the different areas
of the classroom
– Only relevant materials in each segmented
• Minimize auditory and visual distractions
Effective Literacy Instruction
Visual Supports
• Provide information that is accessible and stable
over time
• Reduces anxiety and difficulty around transitions
since students are able to ‘see’ upcoming events
and activities
• One type of these is the schedule, there should
be two ( classroom and individual)
– Individual is for those that benefit from
additional concrete information
Effective Literacy Instruction
Visual Supports: Work Systems
Work Systems visually answer four questions
• What task or activity is the student to engage in ?
• How much work is required OR how long will it take ?
• How will the student know that progress is being made or
the activity is finished?
• What happens next, after the work or activity is finished
Effective Literacy Instruction
ABA strategies that are helpful in literacy instruction
• Task analysis
• Prompting
• Reinforcement
• Chaining
Task Analysis
• This involves breaking down complex behavior
into its component parts.
• Skills can be broken into many steps and
taught in a number of phases
• In ABA framework a prompt or a cue (
stimulus) is provided to the student; the child
responds, and a consequence follows
• Least to most prompts is a prompting strategy
that can be used in effective literacy
instruction. Least to most prompts may follow
this hierarchy:
• Reinforcement is used to increase the use of a
target skill or behavior. It is the contingent
presentation of a reinforcer immediately following
a student’s use of the skill
• To effectively use positive reinforcement, teachers
must first establish a target skill and performance
• The steps in a task analysis form a behavioral chain
that can be taught. The process of reinforcing
responses that occur in a sequence to form
complex behavior is called chaining
Contexts for Building Emergent
Literacy Skills
• Shared Book Reading
– Style of book reading in which the adult and child
have rich conversations about the content and
pictures in the text
• Interactive or dialogic book reading
• Dramatic Storytelling and Retelling
– Activity in which children invent and act out stories or
retell stories heard or read
• Interactive Routines
– Predictable, repeated actions written down as a
schedule or chart
Contexts for Building Emergent
Literacy Skills
• Music and movement
– Enlarged print versions of lyrics written as
interactive charts
• Language Experience activities
– Activity in which the teacher guides a discussion
and written record of shared experience
• Signing-in and signing-up
– Activity in which children write their name on a
piece of paper when they come to school in the
morning or for turn taking purposes
• Games
– Type of play for targeting emergent literacy skills
Use of PowerPoint to Create Stories
PowerTalk PresentationPowerTalk.ppt
..\I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a.ppt
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