Reading Comprehension Strategies for Parents of ASD Kids

Reading comprehension problems are common in ASD.

reading comprehension strategies: how to help a child learn to read better in 5 steps.
Help your child improve reading comprehension and fluency this summer.

I’ve created some reading comprehension strategies for you today that will work with 3rd through 5th grade kids. These reading comprehension strategies are beneficial for all kids, but my focus today is on special needs kids, particularly kids diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

If you are a parent looking for reading comprehension strategies for your ASD child my suggestions should help get you off to a good start.  As you know, for ASD kids, a lot gets missed in the large classroom setting that makes homework time at the kitchen table quite difficult. The ASD child often forgets, misunderstands, and inappropriately responds to his assigned homework.  Frustrated and tired parents usually end up doing the work for the child just to get it done.

If this sounds familiar, I’d like to offer you a few reading comprehension strategies. My reading tips will hopefully give you a few tools for your toolbox and take the torture out of homework time. First of all, know that reading comprehension problems are common in kids and adults with autism spectrum disorders. To gain success, you need to directly coach your child in the thought processes that make those connections.

Does your child struggle with reading comprehension, even though fluency isn’t a problem?

Reading comprehension instruction usually focuses on reading passages of text, having a class discussion, and then testing student comprehension through a written test. This is the way reading comprehension has been taught for generations. Only in the last twenty years have we seen such a tremendous increase in children with developmental disabilities and ASD.

Teaching children to read for meaning is not easy. Reading comprehension uses a complex set of skills and processes. And children with different learning styles, disabilities, and abilities need a different kind of reading comprehension instruction.

First, Use a “Direct Instruction” Coaching Technique

Help your special needs child learn reading comprehension strategies at home by using a direct instruction technique.
Use direct instruction techniques to teach reading comprehension strategies.

In education this method of teaching concepts directly to students has a name. It’s called Direct Instruction. Special education teachers can still use direct instruction when working with ADHD, learning disabled, and ASD kids, even though it is no longer common. I’m going to explain to you what this style of teaching is and why it’s the most vital of all reading comprehension strategies for special needs kids. I’ll also give you the tools you need to use the basic principles of direct instruction methods at home with your child, it is really sad that schools and parents sometimes don´t pay enough attention to the problems disabled kids face every day, some schools are not even equipped with the basics they should offer to these kids such as having elevators from Terry Lifts to help those who are not able to walk and move with a wheelchair all day.

Educational researchers are lagging behind in the area of reading comprehension strategies for ASD kids, but there is hope. The few studies that have been done show how using Direct Instruction will dramatically improve a child’s reading comprehension skills.

ASD kids need individualized help that may not come from your child’s classroom.

But don’t worry. It can come directly from you.

Direct Instruction is perhaps the most powerful of all the reading comprehension strategies. It is when you show children how to focus on and analyze the reading.

You can easily use direct instruction techniques at home to teach reading comprehension strategies. Think of it as ‘role playing’. You model for them the exact process you want them to learn. ASD kids often get lost when given too many oral instructions. We’ve all been there before. You give them a list of things to do and there’s always one vital step forgotten. This is where Direct Instruction comes in.

Resources on Direct Instruction:

Now at home you will use the same repetitive process, but more informally. You will start by reading a passage out loud to your child. Then you will read it in chorus together. Then your child will read it to you.

Use my 9 reading comprehension strategies on my reading comprehension posters to help your child think through the material.

Ask questions about the reading and offer your thought process on how to answer along with the right answer. Then ask your child to answer. You are directly instructing your child in how to problem solve, analyze, and think about what he or she is reading.

Direct Instruction Method of teaching reading comprehension strategies was common in the U.S. for several years. I am surprised it is not still commonly utilized for special populations. It is a system that I have always had great success with when teaching.

Understanding Semantic Processing

Reading Comprehension is a process that involves several skills. (I’ll explain more about that a little bit later.) You will need to model these skills when you are using the Direct Instruction technique I’ve shown you. Readers use various thinking skills to help make sense of the meaning of words, sentences, and texts. The process of decoding a bunch of words and making sense of their meaning is what educators call semantic processing.

If you have a child with an autism spectrum disorder, semantic processing is difficult. I’m sure you are already very aware of this. Although your child is well able to read scientific materials with ease, narrative stories are very difficult. Your child struggles when asked to read a story and make sense of people’s motives, actions, and social consequences. You are very familiar with this, I’m sure. It’s hard for ASD kids to make connections with character emotions and to read between the lines.

Modeling Direct Instruction at Home

I want to use a story of Jack and Jill to model how you can use direct instruction techniques at home with your child. Here’s my silly little example text:

Jack stole Jill’s heart.
Jack stole Jill’s wallet.

Here Jack’s act of stealing has two very different semantic meanings. In the first he can be considered a romantic hero of sorts. In the second sentence he’s become a petty thief. If you are using the Direct Instruction technique you’ll first read out loud to your child, then read together, then let your child read alone. When you’ve finished you’ll begin asking comprehension questions and modeling not only appropriate answers but your thought process on how you figured it out too.

Here’s an example of how you might do that:

“What two things did Jack steal?”

Of course your child should be able to say Jill’s heart and her wallet. This is a literal answer. Now you move deeper.

“What do you think the author meant when he said “stole Jill’s heart?” Your child might say something about Jill maybe having a toy heart.  Rather than tell your child that the answer is wrong,  encourage understanding of the deeper meaning. Respond by saying, “Yes, I’m sure Jill probably has a toy heart. But the heart can also be a symbol for a feeling that someone has for someone else. Do you know what kind of feeling that would be?”

Hopefully your child will say love. If not, you talk about Valentine’s day, and heart making, and gift giving. You try to use the child’s personal experiences to help them make this connection. Personal experiences are what teachers call having ‘prior knowledge’.

Dig deeper. Ask your child, “Are there other phrases about hearts that mean love?” Listen. Encourage. Coach. Say them together. “You warmed my heart” or “my heart is broken” come to my mind. But there are others popping up in yours, I’m sure. This is how you make the text come alive and model semantic processing through a direct instruction technique.

Easy peezy!

Peer Tutoring also Greatly Improves Semantic Processing

Sometimes what you need is a small group of kids reading together. Maybe you have a supportive community, large family, or a home school group to work with. The ASD child struggling to make deeper, more broad connections from reading should be paired with a group of students who have very good semantic processing abilities. In the following example the teacher gives students questions to discuss with their group in what is called the Jigsaw method. Using a cooperative group with kids who excel in reading comprehension improves semantic processing. Social grouping gives ASD kids the chance to develop their language skills in a natural setting and learn from the kids who are good at it.

So what are the reading comprehension strategies you need to model? I’ve prepared a nice visual aid for both you and your child with ASD below. Each strategy poster offers simple reminders on how you and your child can dig deeper and discuss assigned readings. You may pick and choose which reading comprehension strategies you’ll need for a particular reading.

Synonym and antonym practice helps improve vocabulary and increases comprehension. There are four reading comprehension strategies that focus a lot on semantic processing: sequencing, comparing and contrasting, cause and effect, and organizing and classifying.  Three readingcomprehension strategies focus on understanding both small parts of the text and the big picture. They are deductive reasoning, context clues, and drawing conclusions.

9 Reading Comprehension Strategies: [Download Free]
Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension synonyms poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available. Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension antonyms poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available. Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension sequencing poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available.
Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension antonyms poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available. Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension organizing and classifying poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available. Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension drawing conclusions poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available.
Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension deductive reasoning poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available. Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension comparing contrasting poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available. Get a free download from Healthy Family: a reading comprehension context clues poster for kids.This is one of 9 reading comprehension posters available.

Good reading comprehension strategies are vital for your child’s success. I hope you were able to get some insight from this article and that it will help take away some of the frustrations you have. If you have any questions about the reading comprehension strategies I’ve described here, links to share, or positive experiences using them please let me know.

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