Helping Children with Autism Strengthen Four Foundation Literacy Skills

Maximising the benefits of literacy support for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) relies on understanding the areas of literacy development that need increased focus.

One of my aims when creating My Alison Work was to produce a volume of resources to help parents and literacy specialists accelerate the development of literacy skills in ASD children.

It is important to acknowledge that the sequence of steps involved in acquisition of literacy is the same for everyone. Children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, due to an underdevelopment of certain skills, may experience difficulty with particular steps.

These children can be challenged in any of the following areas, in varying degrees.

1. Decoding (reading)

Decoding involves the child looking at a letter or letters then being able to link these letters to the correct sound. This can be particularly difficult for children on the Autism Spectrum as they are being asked to link an abstract sound the hear to a letter ‘label’. In simple terms, the sound itself of “a” has no meaning therefore is difficult for the child to label. This labelling is essential to acquiring decoding skills. This decoding process is further described in this blog post.

2. Encoding (writing)

Encoding involves the child sounding out the word in their head then being able to link the sounds to the correct letters and physically write those letters on the page. Poor consolidation of this early skill results in a weak foundation for later demands on written language skills. It is critical to commit to strengthening this skill early in the child’s literacy development.

Below is a link to a sample activity used to help children link the sounds to the correct letters then practice good letter formation.

Free Writing Exercise

3. Fine Motor Control – Letter Formation

Fine Motor Control is often observed as a skill which is slower to develop in ASD children. Repetition of patterning letter formation via tracing and writing within the boxed books  is critical for ASD children at this early stage. I have written another blog post which explains the handwriting needs of children with autism and immature fine motor skills. It includes free My Alison Work resources specifically designed to strengthen these skills.

4. Comprehension

Comprehension of the Written Word requires the reader to be able to understand the meaning that the writer is trying to convey. ASD children have difficulty understanding written language when required to interpret increasingly complex inference and nuance of written text.

With this in mind, My Alison Work Decodable Readers are designed to encourage early development of base comprehension skills.

  • Set 1 Decodable Readers enables simple comprehension of basic sentences.
  • The stories in Sets 2 & 3 Decodable Readers carefully introduce the child to inference and prediction within the written text.
  • These readers also provide situations for the adult to easily teach Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving Skills in highly entertaining, humorous stories.

Follow this link to read free samples of the decodable readers.

Embedded in the My Alison Work program are the essential pre-literacy skills of laterality, directionality and foundation phonological awareness.

This blog post has demonstrated how My Alison Work Early Literacy Program contributes to the acquisition of literacy and language skills essential to the growth of independence and social adeptness in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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