Literacy in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A developmental exploration and practical interventions

Literacy in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A developmental exploration and practical interventions

First Author: Deborah Bergman Deitcher -- Tel Aviv University
Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Literacy development, Home Literacy Environment, Shared Book Reading, Reading comprehension
Abstract / Summary: 

The number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased exponentially worldwide. These children face difficulties with literacy development and reading throughout their years of schooling. This symposium takes a developmental approach, and explores different aspects of reading in children with ASD from preschool, into middle school, and through high school. We examine both home-based aspects of literacy, such as the Home Literacy Environment, as well as school-based aspects of literacy, such as shared reading with preschoolers and reading comprehension of middle school and high school students. This comprehensive approach can facilitate a better understanding of the literacy development of children with ASD, and provide intervention methods for promoting this development.

Symposium Papers: 

Comparing the home literacy environment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with their typical peers one story at a time

First Author/Chair: Julie Thompson -- Texas A&M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Eun Hye “Grace” Ko

Purpose: There has been emerging interest in the home literacy environment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Dynia, Lawton, Logan, & Justice, 2014; Lucas & Norbury, 2017). However, to date, exploration of home literacy environment of this population has been conducted through questionnaires rather than direct observation. The purpose of this study was to examine the home literacy environment by observing parent-child dyads during shared story reading in their natural home environment.

Method: Using the Language Environmental Analysis (LENA) system we examined the adult words count (i.e., the number of words spoken to and near the child), conversational turns count which includes identification of who initiated the conversational turn, child vocalizations count, and an audio environment report (measures close vocalizations, distant and overlapping vocalizations, electronic sounds, noise, and silence) during a shared story reading between parents and their children. We included 20 families with preschool children who were typically developing and 20 with preschool children with autism spectrum disorder.

Results: Preliminary results indicate substantial differences between dyads with typical children compared to those with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the areas of shared story reading duration, reciprocal exchanges, extra textual commenting, and child vocalizations.

Conclusion: This current study has implications on areas of development for future research examining interventions to improve interactions during shared story reading for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Shared book reading with children with ASD: Parents’ book preferences, children’s word learning, and the impact of book genre

First Author/Chair: Deborah Bergman Deitcher -- Tel Aviv University

Purpose: Despite the many documented benefits of shared book-reading (SBR), little research has examined this activity with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The following studies explored parents’ preferences when selecting books and their behavior during SBR, and whether children with ASD can learn new words and concepts from SBR interactions using informational books.

Method: Three small-scale studies were conducted with children with ASD and their parents in Israel. Study 1: We administered an 11-question form to parents (N=10) of children with ASD. Open and closed questions explored elements that parents take into consideration when selecting books for SBR, as well as behaviors during the interaction itself.
Studies 2,3: Preschool children (N=6) were read a number of informational books and a variety of activities evaluated their learning of new concepts and vocabulary.

Results: Study 1: Parents take their child’s issues into greatest consideration when selecting books for SBR, along with elements of early literacy and socio-emotional development. Parents report using multiple techniques (e.g., explaining new words and drawing text-to-reader connections) to help their children enjoy and learn from SBR.
Studies 2,3: Children with ASD are able to learn new words and concepts from informational books, but often require repeated readings and additional support (e.g., illustrations).

Conclusions: These studies revealed similarities and differences between the book selection process and SBR interactions of parents with typically developing children and those with ASD. These understandings can improve the guidance given to parents of children with ASD and optimize SBR interactions.

Reading enhancements for students in grades 4–8 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Project READ): Intervention iterative development and refinement–Year 1 process and findings

First Author/Chair: Colleen Reutebuch -- The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, The University of Texas at Austin

Purpose: We aimed to develop, test, and improve a prototype version of Reading enhancements for students with autism spectrum disorder (Project READ) -- an intervention for students in grades 4–8 designed to specifically address the reading comprehension difficulties and behavior of students with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD). Research questions included: (1) In authentic school settings, how do teachers perceive the promise of Project READ for improving reading comprehension outcomes for students with ASD? and, (2) How feasible is implementation of Project READ?

Method: A series of three iterative design experiments with experienced school staff (n = 5) were conducted to analyze feasibility, and staff and student use of each of the elements of the intervention. A mixed methods approach (Gersten, Baker, & Lloyd, 2000; Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, Schauble, 2003; & Vaughn, Schumm, & Sinagub, 1996) was employed, including observations, student work samples, and focus group interviews.

Results: Findings from retrospective analysis of the data sources indicated that the intervention was positively perceived, warranted for the target population, and feasible. Participants also identified challenges and benefits of implementation, as well as suggestions for further refinements.

Conclusion: By systematically co-developing a reading intervention for middle grade students with HFASD, it may be possible to better reading comprehension outcomes and academic success in school for individuals with this disability. Findings will contribute to the sparse research base on improving academic performance of students with ASD (Chiang & Lean, 2007; El Zein et al., 2014; Whalon et al., 2009).

Using Collaborative Strategic Reading – High School (CSR-HS) to support reading comprehension for secondary students with autism

First Author/Chair: Christopher Brum -- Department of Special Education, San Diego State University

Purpose: Increasing reading comprehension was a target intervention area of a randomized controlled trial (n=546) by the Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism (CSESA) in the United States. Working with struggling readers in high school with Autism Spectrum Disorders, we utilized Collaborative Strategic Reading – High School (CSR-HS) (Reutebach, El Zein, Kim, Weinberg, & Vaughn, 2015). This peer-mediated intervention requires students to use the text to develop questions, identify key ideas and then synthesize the information into their own words.

Method: Implementation sites received formal training on CSR-HS and target students were selected to participate. Individual student progress monitoring was conducted with goals developed using Goal Attainment Scaling (Ruble, McGrew, & Toland, 2012). As a part of the intervention, teachers received coaching on the implementation of CSR-HS and fidelity measures were taken throughout the intervention period at each site.

Results: Findings include student progress measured from GAS goals, fidelity measurements of teacher implementation, observation data and student work samples. Examples of GAS goals will be shared, the progress students made on their goals, as well as summative scores measuring fidelity of implementation across all sites. Additionally, information will be shared on how sites contextualized the intervention to suit the needs of their individual learners, including the text used, student pairing and the integration of technology.

Conclusion: When teachers implemented the intervention with fidelity and customized it to meet the needs of their learners, CSR-HS demonstrated itself to be an effective intervention to increase reading comprehension for individual with Autism.


First Author/Chair:DISCUSSANT Jill Pentimonti -- American Institutes for Research