Tracking the reading skills of young school-age children with autism spectrum disorder from preschool to year 3

Tracking the reading skills of young school-age children with autism spectrum disorder from preschool to year 3

First Author: Marleen Westerveld -- Griffith University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jessica Paynter
Keywords: ASD, Emergent literacy, Longitudinal, Reading Assessment, children
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at risk of persistent reading difficulties, particularly in reading comprehension. This longitudinal study investigated if emergent literacy skills prior to school-entry (Time 1) are correlated with conventional reading skills in year 3 of schooling (Time 2).

Method: 19 students diagnosed with ASD (mean age 8;0 years; SD = 0;6), who originally participated in a larger study evaluating the emergent literacy skills of verbal preschoolers with ASD (n = 57, mean age 4;10 years; SD = 0;5), were available at Time 2. We assessed: Time 1: vocabulary (PPVT-4); letter sound knowledge [LSK] and phonological awareness [PA] (PALS-PreK); Time 2: Reading accuracy and comprehension (York Assessment of Reading for Comprehension [YARC].

Results: There was significant variability in reading performance at Time 2 in reading accuracy (M = 91.5, 69 – 127) and reading comprehension (M = 79.8, 69 – 110). Reading comprehension at Time 2 was significantly linked to preschool vocabulary (r =.73) and PA (r = .61), but not to LSK (r = .27). Reading accuracy was linked to all three Time 1 variables (r = .51 - .73).

Conclusions: This is the first study to investigate the links between pre-school emergent literacy skills in children with ASD and their conventional reading skills three years later. As in previous research with school-age children with ASD, we found significant variability in reading performance. However, our longitudinal findings are consistent with the extant literature on typically developing populations. These results indicate reading difficulties may be detected prior to formal schooling for children with ASD, highlighting the potential for early assessment and targeted intervention to support later reading success for this group of students.