Reading and understanding what is read is a fundamental skill for personal development and growth. Below are some reasons why it is important to work on reading comprehension with your autistic children:
Communication and social skills: Reading enhances communication skills and helps children understand social norms, emotions, and interactions between people. This can be especially helpful for autistic children, who often face challenges in these areas.
Cognitive development: Reading comprehension promotes cognitive development and the ability to think critically and analytically. By working on reading comprehension, your children will develop skills to infer meanings, make connections between ideas, and evaluate the information presented.
Expanding vocabulary: Regular reading helps children learn new words and expand their vocabulary. A broader vocabulary improves communication and understanding of the world around them.
Stimulating imagination and creativity: Reading allows children to explore different worlds, situations, and characters. This stimulates imagination and creativity, which can be beneficial for their emotional and social development.
Improving self-esteem and confidence: By improving their reading and comprehension skills, children can feel more secure and capable in academic and social situations. This can be especially helpful for autistic children, who often face challenges in these areas.
Fostering empathy: Reading allows children to put themselves in the place of other characters and understand their emotions and perspectives. This can help develop empathy and improve social skills.
Working on reading comprehension with your autistic children will provide valuable tools for their growth and development throughout life. By giving them the support and appropriate strategies, you will be facilitating their success in school and daily life. It is essential to address the individual needs of each child and collaborate with professionals specializing in special education and speech therapy to achieve the best possible results. We encourage you to explore different approaches and maintain a positive and patient attitude while working together on this important aspect of your children’s development.
Here, we provide you with some strategies and examples that you can implement in your daily activities:
Use of images and pictograms: Often, children with autism find it easier to understand visual information rather than verbal information. You can use images and pictograms to represent words or phrases in the text and help children establish connections between the images and the written words.
Shared reading: Select a book appropriate for the age and comprehension level of the children. Read the text aloud to them, stopping at key moments to ask questions and make sure they understand what is happening in the story. You can use objects or images to better illustrate the concepts.
Creating social stories: Social stories are short, personalized stories that describe social situations and how to cope with them. You can create stories that include your autistic children as main characters and use them to teach reading comprehension skills, such as inferring emotions and motivations of the characters.
Segmenting the text: Break down the text into smaller, more manageable segments. This can facilitate children’s understanding and prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. After reading each segment, ask questions and discuss what happened in that part of the text.
Use of technology: There are reading apps and programs that can help autistic children develop reading comprehension skills. Some programs include read-aloud features, word tracking, and options to adapt the presentation of the text according to the children’s needs.
Teaching specific vocabulary: Before starting to read a text, introduce the key vocabulary that children will encounter in the reading. Use images, objects, and concrete examples to teach the meaning of the words. This will help children better understand the text and improve their ability to make inferences and predictions.
Positive reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement, such as praise and rewards, to motivate children to participate in reading activities and strive to improve their skills.
Using routines and structures: Autistic children often benefit from clear routines and structures. Establish a regular schedule for reading activities and follow a consistent structure in each session, such as starting with a warm-up activity, then reading a text, and ending with a reinforcement activity.
Adapting the environment: Create a comfortable, distraction-free reading environment for the child. You can minimize noise and visual distractions, as well as provide sensory supports, such as cushions and fidgets, to help the child focus on the reading activity.
Using metaphors and analogies: Sometimes, autistic children may have difficulty understanding abstract concepts. Use simple and concrete metaphors and analogies to explain abstract ideas present in the text. For example, if the text talks about friendship, you could use a metaphor like “friendship is like a garden that needs to be cared for and watered to grow.”
Reading aloud with expression: When you read aloud to children, use intonation and facial expressions to convey the meaning of the text and the emotions of the characters. This can help children better understand the story and learn to infer the emotional state of the characters.
Making personal connections: Help children relate the content of the text to their own experiences and prior knowledge. For example, if you read a story about someone moving to a new home, you could ask, “Do you remember when we moved to our house? How did you feel?”
Teaching critical thinking skills: Work on developing critical thinking skills, such as identifying the main idea, differentiating between facts and opinions, and evaluating the truthfulness of information. These skills can improve reading comprehension and teach children to approach content more analytically.
Practicing event sequencing: Help children understand the sequence of events in a story using sorting activities. For example, you can present cards with images representing key events in the story and ask them to arrange them chronologically.
Remember that it is important to be patient and persistent when working on reading comprehension with autistic children. Not all children will respond in the same way to the strategies mentioned, so it is essential to adjust and personalize activities according to the needs and preferences of each child, as well as work closely with the professionals who care for them, such as occupational and speech therapists, to achieve the best possible results.