Reading comprehension help for students with autism may requires a few strategies that YOU the parent or teacher can easily do at home or in the classroom. Studies consistently show that children who are encouraged to use visual imagery have improved performance on tests of comprehension and recall of materials. For many children with autism, this skill of using mental imagery in text is an extremely challenging task. Nevertheless, this method can be taught and mastered.
Reading Comprehension help for students with autism involves VISUALIZATION. This is one of the most effective ways to help improve reading comprehension in a child with autism. How do you teach this? Well …. try to encourage the child to form mental pictures of the events described in the stories read.
An autistic child struggling with reading comprehension will benefit from a teaching method geared to make sure that he understands and thinks about word meaning as he reads and that provides a specific scheme for visualizing. For example, a teacher might stop a student after reading a few lines and encourage the student to form a mental picture with a question such as “what do you think that looked like?” This allows the student to build imagery directly related to the concepts conveyed in the reading and at the same time to continue to focus on the printed symbols on the page.
- Use prior knowledge and pre-reading strategies. “Look at the title. Think about what the story might be about.”
- For stories, the student can visualize what is happening at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. “Read or listen to the first few sentences. Remember to get a picture in your head for each sentence. Do not continue until you get a moving picture in your head, kind of like a movie.”
- For informational text, student can think about key words and visualize the content they are learning. “Read or listen to this paragraph. Remember to get a picture for each sentence. Ask me if you do not understand a word.”
- Students should be asked to explain their images. “Can you describe what you see as you are reading.”
- Students should compare the picture in their minds with what they are reading. “Tell me as much information as you can remember.””
Integrating the child’s own artwork with story reading, such as having the child draw a map or diagram of events, or represent the story in cartoon form, is also useful. They can also read an entire passage and then create an illustration that represents the main idea of the paragraph. To help the child decide which ideas are most important, provide them with some guidelines: “If this story were to be made into a movie, which scenes absolutely must be included for the story to make sense. Which scenes would be funny, sad, etc.”?
Reading Comprehension help for students with autism involves your help and guidance in teaching visualization strategies. Good Luck – and let us know how they worked!
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist and speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com