Reading Comprehension Problems: Tips for Autism

how to help a child learn to read better

Reading comprehension problems for kids with autism: When kids with autism have reading comprehension problems it is often due to issues with pronoun confusion. Do you have a child who struggles with reading comprehension and is on the autism spectrum? Learn how to help your child understand what they are reading better by understanding better what causes the misunderstanding and confusion.

Several academic studies show that peer or parental tutoring goes a long way in helping children on the autism spectrum improve their reading comprehension skills. Pronoun confusion, or anaphora, is a common problem for children with autism.

Want to learn more about anaphora and what you can do to help your ASD child with reading comprehension problems?

I’m going to teach you what anaphora is, and give you free online resources that are guaranteed to improve reading comprehension problems for kids with autism.

If you commit to working with your child on a regular basis, your coaching will help him or her improve reading comprehension problems.

Are you ready to get started?

In the teaching world understanding which pronoun goes with which person place or thing is called an anaphoric expression.

Anaphora is when one word or phrase in a text stands for another word or phrase in a text.

Most reading comprehension problems for kids with autism stem from trouble connecting words like “it” or “them” to the person place or thing they stand for in a text.

Get tips on how to help your ASD child overcome his or her reading comprehension problems.In 3rd grade children go from learning to read to reading to learn. This is when reading comprehension problems for kids with autism really surface.

Parents of kids with autism often see early reading abilities. But these kids later fall behind as reading comprehension problems mount. Was your child with autism recognizing letters of the alphabet at about age 2 and reading picture books by 4? If you are shaking your head yes, you’re not alone.

It often comes as a shock in 3rd or 4th grade when your autistic child starts to lag behind in reading comprehension.

There’s a logical explanation for this. Many kids with autism have trouble following along and understanding which terms refer to each other. And although they are great at rote memory, they struggle with understanding the big picture.

If you think this describes your child, then use the strategies here to help him or her at home. With regular work on reading comprehension problems and proper tutoring your son or daughter will learn how to make connections when he or she reads.

Understanding Anaphoric Expressions to Improve Reading Comprehension Problems

Many times kids with autism don’t realize they can figure out what an unfamiliar term means by using context clues. This is where anaphoric expressions come into play. Here is an old PBS video that explains anaphora quite well. It’s low budget and corny, I know. But if you watch it you’ll not only understand what anaphora means, you’ll also get a good idea how to teach anaphoric expressions to your child. The teacher begins her instruction at 4:49 minutes into the video and ends at 11:30 minutes.

Once you’ve got the concept down, spend some time reading orally with your child. When you both come across a pronoun stop and discuss which person, place, or thing it refers to.

Is your child answering correctly?

Seeing the connections?

If not, coach your child to see the right connection. In time your child will improve.

You should also incorporate computer games that reinforce anaphoric expressions. I’ve found a few free online games that focus on anaphoric expressions.

Check them out to quiz your child and help improve reading comprehension problems.

Free Online Games that Teach Anaphoric Expressions

Personal pronouns treasure hunt game

The Personal Pronouns Treasure Hunt BBC game is geared toward older kids and adults. It’s a no frills tutoring program that offers instant quizzing. The Treasure Hunt is free online pronoun game. Players get points when they are able to identify the personal pronouns in a sentence. The game has three playing levels for students, too: Spot the pronoun, use the right pronoun, or rewrite these sentences.

The Pronoun Clubhouse

The Pronoun Clubhouse is a Hartcourt School free online pronoun game. This game asks students to read sentences and choose a pronoun. When the student answers correctly they can continue building their clubhouse. Students are given hints to help them choose the right word, but there are no sample pronouns to choose from. Improper spelling, capitalization, and punctuation will also cause an incorrect answer even if the pronoun chosen is correct, so this exercise is best done with an adult’s help.

If Your Child has an IEP

Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) usually focus on a single word or concept when reading. They generally miss the big picture and develop reading comprehension problems in middle elementary school. If this is your child, there ought to be provisions in the IEP (Individualized Education Program) to address reading comprehension problems.

2 Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension for ASD are:

  • Pronoun Underlining: Teacher or parent underlines various pronouns in a text and orally ask the child to choose what that pronoun refers to.
  • Peer Support: The regular classroom teacher pairs the ASD child with reading comprehension problems to a child with advanced reading comprehension. The peer tutor uses verbal cueing to help the ASD student draw from prior knowledge. Studies have shown that self-monitoring is too difficult for ASD kids who are great with rote memory. But when kids with high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome are exposed to peer tutoring their ability to comprehend ambiguous texts improves significantly.

One final note: anaphoric expressions are only one important reading comprehension skill. The National Reading Panel recognizes 7 other important reading comprehension skills that need to be taught. But a comprehensive study in 2007 showed that the most significant improvements came with anaphoric cueing. Verbal tutoring of anaphoric expressions with either a parent or a peer will give your ASD child the most bang for the buck. In short, this is a good start for you and your ASD child. Please check out our additional reading comprehension strategies for ASD kids. If you haven’t signed up for the RSS newsletter, please do. You’ll get a monthly email with our most recent content.

Print Friendly
Content Protection by
One Love Animal Rescue.

4 Comments on Reading Comprehension Problems: Tips for Autism

  1. Visit a teacher’s store or a bookstore where you can buy reading comprehension workbooks. Use these at home to increase comprehension skills. Choose books that appeal to the child’s interests and are at his grade level. Check this by using the card catalogue in the public library. Along with the facts about the book, you should find the intended age range for readers listed.

  2. Reading Comprehension Problems: There is reliable evidence that reading comprehension difficulty occurs frequently in children who are actually good decoders and spellers. The breakdown in reading comprehension can occur for any number of reasons, several of which are detailed below. It’s important to understand that for a child to adequately comprehend an author’s written message it requires them to be able to analyze and sort through multiple layers of text meaning. For simplicity’s sake I’ve broken those layers down to four separate processes. First, to properly comprehend a written passage a child must be able to decode the words on the page. Second, the child needs to hold the information in working memory long enough for the information to be more extensively processed. Third, the child must have adequate vocabulary, grammar and syntactical skills to organize and interpret the written message efficiently. Fourth, the child needs to access higher order thinking skills to process the written message and go beyond the surface layer of the text and infer possible meaning. If a breakdown occurs in one or more of these steps then the child may fail to grasp the meaning of the text, which often results in reading comprehension problems and failure.

    • Yes! So it would be even harder for a child with autism and ADHD to read. It’s hard enough getting my daughter to stay still and listen. She’s usually upside down and not looking at the book.

  3. This isn’t the issue my daughter has with reading comprehension. She is 10. She has autism and ADHD. Her problem is not knowing the meaning of words or not understanding/working out hidden clues in stories. For example we were reading a book about Sunflowers the other day. The sunflowers were just popping up all over the neighbourhood and everyone had said it wasn’t them. No one had planted the seeds. At the end of the book it says that only a crow and dog knew. My daughter didnt work out that the crow had dropped the seeds and the dog buried them.

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Adult Comprehension Problems

Comments are closed.