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Reading and literacy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders


| Reading and literacy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders |

Authored by: Katherine Powell | SLP

As Speech Language Pathologists we have specialized knowledge in the area of literacy learning. Unfortunately, literacy skills are not typically included in the assessment of and intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). There are many misconceptions relating to reading in ASD, including: that children with ASD will not have any difficulty in developing their reading skills. At Therapy Spot we believe that following best practice means looking at the latest available evidence and combining it with our clinical expertise.

While it is true that there is a proportion of children with ASD that seem to learn without directly being taught, studies have shown that this is not the case for all children with ASD. Even those who are able to read fluently often have difficulty understanding what they are reading (Westerveld, Paynter & Trembath, 2016).

There is currently a lack of high quality evidence regarding literacy instruction in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Assessment of the student’s current literacy level is the first step in creating a practical plan. These results are then combined with knowledge of the child’s learning strengths and their unique preferences and motivations in order to develop appropriate literacy interventions.

Westerveld, Paynter & Trembath (2016) identify that children with ASD often have impairments in joint attention, social learning and imitation. These areas must be assessed first as they are the building blocks for learning and integral for literacy instruction. In our GABA (Gestalt Applied Behavior Analysis) School we target all areas of development and understand that these building blocks for learning should be a part of all intervention.

At Therapy Spot we believe it is important to incorporate literacy activities and goals in early intervention for children with ASD. In GABA School we provide many opportunities for exposure to literacy such as book reading, school skills and craft. These activities are developed in consultation with our board certified teacher. We incorporate individual literacy goals, such as sight word reading and letter-sound identification, where families identify this as a priority. To learn more about GABA School and the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) at Therapy Spot click here or call 416-546-3044.

Stay tuned for more information on school skills at GABA School.


Mirenda, P. (2003). “He’s not really a reader…”: Perspectives on supporting literacy development in individuals with autism. Topics in Language Disorders, 23(4), 271-281. doi: 10.1097/00011363-200310000-00003

Westerveld, M. F., Paynter, J.,  & Trembath, D. (2016). Reading instruction for children with ASD: Getting the story straight. Journal of Clinical Practice in Speech- Language Pathology, 18(2), 80-83.


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