Children with autism must develop strong literacy skills. For academic success and life in general, reading and writing are imperative.
Children on the autism spectrum have not always developed strong literacy skills, and ASD Reading is working to change that.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Reading is an online platform dedicated to teaching children with autism to read, write and comprehend.
The program is tailored specifically to the needs of children with autism who are often left behind by conventional schooling and who thus fail to develop literacy skills.
ASD Reading recognizes the innate intelligence of children with autism, and their ability to read and write. It adapts instructional methods to harness that intelligence and convert it into literacy skills. The unique program offers many benefits to children with autism and their families.
What is unique about ASD reading?
ASD Reading is based on innovative content and methods developed by Dr. Marion Blank. Dr. Blank drew on her years of experience as a world-renowned literacy and language expert to create a teaching method that enables children to succeed, even if they are non-verbal.
Dr. Blank served as Co-Director of the Columbia University Developmental Neuropsychiatry Program for Autism and Related Disorders and brings a wealth of knowledge in child development and the development of language.
It is this experience that was moulded into a specific program that is helping many autistic children to read.
Features of ASD Reading
The teaching program requires no prerequisite skills on behalf of its participants. Any child can use the program, even children who are non-verbal.
One of the advantages of the program, and one of the reasons that it is able to engage students who would otherwise not learn to read is that it uses images.
The program incorporates graphics, audio and animation to reinforce meaning in a text, and this has been proven to increase the comprehension of a text for autistic children.
The program also combines written and spoken language. Expert research has found that written and spoken language mirror each other, and they reinforce each other. A child’s spoken language can, therefore, be used to enhance their reading ability.
ASD Reading is individualized. It offers customized instruction that is adapted to the specific needs of that child, including their initial reading and speaking ability, their likes and dislikes and their personality.
This kind of individualized instruction is difficult to find in a mainstream school classroom and is one of the reasons that ASD Reading has been successful with so many children.
A systematic assessment is another hallmark. The lessons and varied assessment tools identify each student’s errors and address them specifically, while also identifying the child’s strengths and successes.
This is a more targeted approach to overcoming specific difficulties and provides children and their parents with an accurate description of that child’s progress at every stage.
Why does it work?
ASD Reading moves away from phonics instruction. Phonics is a traditional method for teaching young children to read, but experts now realize that it has limited effectiveness.
It teaches sounds but not meaning. ASD Reading, on the other hand, focusses strongly on meaning and comprehension in a text.
ASD Reading relies on vision. It is not dependant on a whole word or whole language teaching. Instead, it is founded on Dr. Blank’s “6‑SIM” principle.
The “6‑SIM” principle refers to the Six Skill Integrated Method, which uses intensive word teaching. Every aspect of a word is taught in a comprehensive and integrated process.
The six skills taught are:
- Placement in sentences
ASD Reading teaches autistic children about all of the aspects of a word which determine the meaning of that word in a particular context.
The ASD Reading program focuses on important minor details. Even small words such as “but, some, and, that” are addressed in the program.
The use of these words is a common weakness for children on the spectrum and often remains a challenge because traditional teaching methods do not specifically address this weakness. ASD Reading targets this skill specifically.
Furthermore, ASD Reading allows teachers of children with autism to integrate into their teaching skills such as sequencing, letter-sound identification, spelling, writing and blending, skills which all children need as they learn to read.
ASD Reading uses specific content. Content that is relevant and specific to children on the spectrum. Commonly used content is fine for other children. Still, the more tailored content used in ASD Reading programs has been found to engage children more effectively and to relate to their life experience, therefore improving their language ability in the long term.
ASD Reading programs are fun. Children love fun. Children learn better when they are having fun, and they are more inclined to return to or persevere with an activity when they are having fun.
The unique teaching programs deliberately incorporate fun, colour and interactive activities, including games. Parents and teachers who use the program continually comment that children ask to do more and more activities because they are having so much fun. The children are also learning without even realizing it!
In addition, the program designers were sure to make the program entertaining while realizing that children can be distracted by images and sounds. The careful design of the program eliminates distractions.
- Positive reinforcement
As well as offering fun animation and characters, the program provides children with positive reinforcement.
Children are congratulated for correct answers; they also accumulate ‘points’ for succeeding in a particular task or module and are even given a ‘passport’ where they can store and display their points.
Positive reinforcement is hugely beneficial to any child, especially those on the spectrum who have previously struggled to read.
- Easy to follow
The individualized activities are also presented in a way that is easy to understand for children.
This way, the child can complete the program with minimal or no help from parents. Lessons are also presented in such a way that parents can provide guidance if necessary, even if the parent has no teaching experience.
Importantly, children don’t need to know how to read to access the program and complete the tasks. After all, they are using the program to learn how to read.
Literacy and numeracy are core skills for academic and general success. They are also the basis of all school subjects.
Literacy skills are required for children to understand and thrive in any subject, and the reading outcomes achieved by children using ASD Reading are readily and automatically transferred to other subjects at school.
This allows the children to apply their intelligence to other school subjects, which improves academic outcomes, improves the child’s self-esteem and can improve their social integration with their peers.
ASD Reading programs are specifically graded. Children develop mastery of one grade before they move onto the next grade, where the challenges are more difficult and targeted towards more advanced language features.
More complicated language is introduced at each level and builds on the previous level, but the activities and the format are the same.
Familiarity and routine are vital components in the life, and learning, of children on the spectrum, and familiarity is deliberately built into the program.
This means that children are concentrating on how to master the language feature, and not on how to master the procedures of the task.
ASD Reading is transportable because it is entirely web-based. It does not require any downloads, so children can access the program anywhere provided they have a device and an internet connection. In addition, the child’s progress is always saved, and they can pick up where they left off, no matter where they are or which device they are using.
Study at home
ASD Reading is also highly beneficial to children who are studying at home. This includes children who are homeschooled, autistic children doing targeted practise for their specific literacy needs, or children who are forced to study at home for whatever reason.
Children can complete the tasks at home in their own time with minimal supervision or instruction and are given advice and feedback from the program itself.
Last but not least
ASD Reading provides many benefits to children with autism. It incorporates fun, colour, animation and interactive activities, and it is easy to use. It is based on the extensive research and knowledge of Dr. Marion Blank, a respected expert in child development and literacy.
A program is an innovative approach to teaching children on the spectrum. It has proven successful with many children who were not learning to read via traditional school teaching methods.
Through the program, many children on the autism spectrum, even non-verbal children, have learned to read and have transferred their new-found literacy skills to other school subjects and other areas of life, to the joy of themselves and their parents. Furthermore, ASD Reading can be used at home and is beneficial to any child who finds themselves needing to improve their literacy from home.