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    Teaching Children with Autism to Read

    12:00AM, 12 November, 2018

    In recent years, there is a growing national awareness that literacy is a civil right. As Malaysia envision a literacy rate target of 99 per cent by 2020 for all children and youth (Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025), all children are believed to have the capability of learning to read. Therefore, children with autism have the right to scientifically-based reading instructions and they should not leave school without at least some basic reading skills. Learning to read is defined as the ability to process words in each text based on the writer’s intended meaning. With this definition in mind, it is possible to teach children with autism to become literate. These children are thought to have difficulties dealing with people. There is a relationship between reading comprehension and people comprehension. It is through teaching them to comprehend words that they may work towards understanding people.

    In terms of reading development, children with autism and typically developing children share similar reading decoding skills. Decoding skills means translating printed words into speech by combining letters to their sounds and recognising the patterns that make syllables and words. The problem of reading with autistic children lies in the less concrete aspects of reading, which is in learning by listening, written expression, graphomotor (muscular movements in writing) skills, and comprehension (Whitby & Mancil, 2009).The optimum strategy to teach them is through visual learning.The sight-word instruction or the whole word learning method, which involves a multisensory (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) approach and other areas such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension. Further, the cloze tasks are another reading strategy that encourages self-monitoring when children read the passage in search of suitable word to fill in the blank. Motivation and encouragement based on child’s interests is necessary for reading to be successful. In teaching reading, choose interested and meaningful words such as favourite food, TV characters and so on.

    The use of visual supports and cues to enhance textual comprehension such as flowcharts and graphic organisers also can aid in focusing attention. The use of visuals can improve their word recognition ability and increase independence, social communication and prosocial behaviour.

    Reading instruction via computer-based or computer-assisted programme has shown to improve reading and writing especially during the acquisition stage of learning. In conclusion, the ability to read is a very important skill for all children to success in school and in other aspects of their daily life. Teaching children with autism is extremely challenging because of their various range of cognitive, social and behavioural issues. But, children with autism can make gains in reading skills if consistent intervention is provided. It is crucial that all children with autism have access to a comprehensive reading programme and instructions are given to the instructional needs of learners with autism.

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