Building comprehension skills of young children with autism one storybook at a time

Purpose Reading involves the ability to decode and draw meaning from printed text. Reading skill profiles vary widely among learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One fairly common pattern is relative strength in decoding combined with weak comprehension skills-indicators of this profile emerge as early as the preschool years. In order for children with ASD to develop a facility with language that prepares them for reading success, practitioners must intentionally create and provide appropriate instruction practices. Method In this tutorial, we describe ways in which practitioners can support language development and comprehension skills for children with ASD within the context of shared reading activities. We begin by providing known information about the reading performance of children with ASD using the Simple View of Reading as our guiding conceptual framework. Next, we present a number of practical, evidence-based strategies that educators can implement within the context of shared book reading activities. Case studies are embedded throughout the tutorial to demonstrate how practitioners may apply these strategies in their instructional settings. Conclusions Shared book reading interventions are a well-studied, developmentally appropriate approach for bringing about change in language and literacy in early childhood. The success of shared reading depends upon rich communication and interaction between the adult reader and the child. Many children with ASD will require strategies to support social communication and emergent literacy skill development (e.g., vocabulary knowledge, language comprehension) that are specifically linked to future reading comprehension.