Saturday, June 10, 2006

Teaching reading to autistic children: whole word approach

The research literature is pretty clear that phonics works best for teaching reading to normal children. There's little or no good data on how to teach reading to autistic children.

Temple Grandin favors a phonics approach. This article, unfortunately pdf only, favors a whole word approach. Your mileage will vary:

Teaching Students With Autistic Spectrum Disorders to Read: A Visual Approach Leslie Todd Broun. Council for Exceptional Children. Vol 36n4 2002.


Room 3 LCS said...

I am a primary school teacher with a child who has been diagnised with autism. He has an excellent command of language in specific areas od interest but is unable to read. As yet I have been unable to source material to assist me in the process of developing a suitable programme. Who can????

John Gordon said...

There's very little quality research to provide any guidance.

I suggest starting with this google scholar search:

My hypothesis is that many children with cognitive disorders, including those diagnoses as autistic, have a somewhat unique distribution of functional and dysfunctional brain mechanisms.

So there probably isn't one answer for all children, but maybe there are better approaches for each child.

The research is pretty clear that phonics approaches work best for average children, so that seems a good place to start, but then adapt and adjust based on response.

One the one hand that's what teachers do -- adapt the generic to the specific. On the other hand it is rather hard to do with more than 2-3 students!

I've seen one teacher to it with two of my boys, so it can be done, but she is pretty exceptional.

My last thought is that the most important thing is to preserve the child's hope, enthusiasm, optimism and willingness to work. I suspect you know that already though! :-)