3 Ways to Develop Reading Skills In Kids With Autism

The building blocks for reading and writing are also called ‘emergent literacy skills’. These skills are important for every child to learn, but even more so for those who experience social communication challenges or have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Why is this? Well, often the areas of difficulty that these children experience with communication are very similar to the areas that need the most support in reading and writing. This means that when you’re supporting your child’s development of emergent literacy skills, you’re also helping them develop important communication skills.

Firstly, what literacy difficulties might a child with ASD have?

  • Seeing the big picture
    • Children with ASD may become fixated on small details within a story which can mean that they struggle to understand ‘the big picture’ of a story.
  • Reading comprehension
    • Challenges with planning, language comprehension and organisation can make it difficult for your child to comprehend how events are unfolding and what is happening in a story.
  • Attention
    • If your child is having difficulties with behaviour and focus, this can have a huge impact on their ability to focus to a book and have a great understanding of a story.
  • Perspective
    • Sometimes a child with ASD will have particular difficulty with identifying and understanding the feelings and thoughts of others. This could translate into having trouble understanding the motivation of characters in books, or why they could be feeling a particular way.

Here are 3 ways that you can help support your child’s literacy development:

1. Approach reading as an opportunity for conversation.

  • Don’t just stick to the text of a book, but rather, allow this time to be a discussion about what’s happening in the book. You can be very flexible!
  • Notice what your child is interested in and chat about this. Take your time to listen, and see where the conversation goes!
  • Relate the pictures or the story to your child’s own experiences to make the story relevant to them.

2. Have a variety of printed materials available.

  • Reading doesn’t just have to be with books – magazines, catalogues, brochures, fridge magnets and other printed materials can be a great way for your child to explore reading around the house. You can use these materials and the practical information they contain to get your child interested in reading!   

3. Try to pick books that engage your child’s interests.

  • Does your child love snakes? Are they really interested in helicopters, or famous athletes, or how precious stones are formed? Help your child get excited about reading by picking books that they’re interested in. These could be fiction books, a Guinness Book of World Records, or even a comic book without words!

For further ideas to support your child’s literacy and language skills, why don’t you check out our Facebook page or YouTube channel? We’ve got loads of free resources, helpful tips and fun activities to share with you!   

-Emilia