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Let's Teach Reading to People with ASD: No, I Mean REALLY

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Let’s talk and think about reading
•! Print or Pictures? •! Why comprehension is so difficult •! Improve comprehension by using print related to living •! Making life more predictable and help people stay calm with print •! Print as the precursor to greater independence •! Just consider these ideas, especially if you do not like them!

Barbara T. Doyle, MS 2008

•! The most versatile way to acquire information •! Is a great pastime and promotes social sharing... “Read any good books lately?” •! Assists in self-regulation, and internal thinking •! Builds impulse control •! Uses learning strengths of many people with ASD: visual, spatial, rote, concrete

Why Read?

Something to think about: Why use pictures and drawings?
•! Many programs start with pictures or line drawings: WHY? •! What are the advantages to pictures or drawings over print? •! The “too low” myth dispelled: if you can remember and respond to a line drawing, you could do the same with printed words!

Something to think about: Why use pictures and drawings?
•! Reasons that print WITH pictures might not work for many learners •! Try print when introducing new concepts •! Don’t take away what is working well

Which is easier?


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Which is more clear to everyone?

Could this be confusing?


Is this conceptually clear?

Use Print to Teach
•! Reading is the “object of the game” •! Organizing pictures can be daunting •! Pictures do not carry over well into adult work and living situations •! Pictures can be stigmatizing over time •! The “P” in PECS can mean PRINT! (read the WHOLE manual!)

•! Can be produced spontaneously and does not require special equipment and lamination •! Requires rote memorization not interpretation, association, inference and generalization •! Is easily done by parents and others •! Is used with even small children •! Is the most expandable system


•! Can lead to a versatile and expandable communication and learning system •! Can be used for social skills teaching and for social rules •! Shows competence •! A good “site” vocabulary improves reading fluency and comprehension

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More WHY? questions •! Why do we introduce phonics before teaching WHOLE WORDS that have meaning? •! Suggestion: build meaningful, whole word sight vocabulary in context

More Why? Questions
•! Why do we first teach children to write only upper case letters? •! Suggestion: teach reading and writing using only lower case letters except as needed, from the beginning! •! Why do we require writing when reading?

Use print to Teach Reading •! Daily printed schedules •! Individual calendars •! Printed rules cards •! Name tags for everyone •! Labels for where things go •! Individual task lists •! Destination cards •! “Where am I going?” lists

Teach with a daily printed schedule •! Yes, I know he knows what is going to happen next...unless something else happens! •! Made fresh daily like a good salad •! Write what will be different about this day and write in what actually happens as the day unfolds •! Note unexpected events and coping schemes used •! Plan to send it home to families, roommates or housemates

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Teach with individual calendars
•! Advance notice helps develop coping skills •! Avoid flight or fight with accurate “prediction” skills •! Both highly liked and unliked activities occur only when on the calendar •! Keep calendars age appropriate and in the latest cool styles and folders

Teach with individual calendars
•! Give pleasant things to anticipate (fights depression) and inform that the unpleasant things are not happening every day (decreases anxiety) •! Calendars support our lifelong need for self-organization

Teach: READ AND DO If you can read and do you can: •! have a real job for real pay and benefits •! develop more successful relationships •! participate in more activities in more places •! be safer and more independent

By the way, teach LISTEN AND DO, too
•! Put directions on audio tape •! List steps to a task on tape or CD •! Use computer voice output for directions •! Use important voices for selfregulation

Teach with Task Lists
•! Lists are used by everyone, everywhere •! Lists provide consistency across instructors and novel supporters •! Lists are rote and can be memorized/internalized, reducing the need for interpersonal support •! Lists can be lifetime supports and self-monitoring devices •! Can combine pictures, words, numbers, drawings, colors, labels, etc.

Teach with Task Lists
•! Write out and practice the steps of the task •! Share with all “teachers” •! Convert to a self-monitoring checklist later •! Post the task list if it applies to everyone •! Add the reward or next liked event to the list

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Sample Laundry Task List: White Clothes
1.! 2.! 3.! 4.! 5.! Get clothes from hamper Sort whites into white basket Turn water switch to hot water Push in and turn dial to 14 minutes Drop white clothes in washer to the top of the middle post (don’t push them in) 6.! Pour in one cup of blue laundry liquid 7.! Close lid. 8.! Pull out dial to start

Sample Homework Task List
1.! Write down all subjects in which you have homework to do 2.! For the first subject, get book, notebook, folder, pen and paper 3.! Read instructions and set timer to work for 10 minutes 4.! Set timer for five minute break 5.! Take break 6.! Continue.......

•! Introduce timers to signal the beginning of a highly liked activity. •! Introduce timers to signal the end of a less-preferred activity •! Consider two-step timer signals •! As soon as possible, teach the individual to use the timer independently or following printed instructions •! Use age appropriate, visual and higher tech timers

By the way, when using timers

•! We comprehend best what relates to our experiences •! We need to visualize the meaning •! Use Experience Books and My Books to create a history of personal experiences •! Can use to teach reading, and understanding the feelings of self/others •! Involve parents, family, friends and staff in making the books

For Reading Comprehension:

“Experience Books”
•! •! •! •! Do not have to be fancy or expensive Collect souvenirs or take pictures Write a story about the experience Include information about relevant emotions of self and others •! Use vocabulary from current and all previous grades of spelling, reading, social studies, math, etc.

•! One book or section for each important person/place in the child or adult’s life •! One picture per page with a story •! Create a social history, helpful for social sharing and grieving the loss of loved ones •! Helps make the child or adult’s life more “real” to others •! Some books: My Dad, My Mom, My School, My Sister, Grandma’s Farm, Great America, Aunt Barbara, etc.

“My Books”

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Use reading to teach the person to do or say “something else” •! Define what you want the person NOT to do. Define what TO DO instead (replacement behavior) •! Choose the new, desired response based on learning strengths •! Make two charts that are visually very different

Use reading to teach the person to do or say “something else”
•! Privately show the two charts: the “to do” and the “not to do” •! Use a metaphor for the “don’t do” or “don’t say” chart: put away, tear up or cut up •! Put the reward right on the chart •! Teach the person to make “good choices” by selecting options from the right chart

NO F--S--B---GREAT!! Darn it! Blast!! No way! I hate that! 5 points for a good choice

Use reading to teach the person to do or say “something else” •! Externalize your choice making •! Monitor progress •! Create a self-monitoring device •! Get input from the person/peers •! Inform others who need to know

Reading Supports Social Skills
•! Create Compliment Cards. Make them age and place appropriate •! Initially, the child or adult actually gives the cards to others (the metaphor for “giving” compliments.) •! If needed, cards are read for the child or adult to the person being complimented •! Later, child or adult selects compliments from memorized cards

We are changing our world!
Each time a (person) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. Robert F. Kennedy

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Thank you for all you do!
Barbara T. Doyle, M.S. Phone 217-793-9347, 793-4018 FAX Emily Iland, Barbara’s sister and co-author, parent of a son with ASD, advocate and educational therapist (fluent in Spanish) Phone 661-297-4205, 297-4033 FAX For book information:

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