Shared reading strategies to boost comprehension in children with ASD

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Reading comprehension can be a major challenge for kids with ASD, especially when we’re talking about narratives. Narratives require readers to take on a character’s perspective in order to understand the story–which isn’t easy for kids who have impairments in social interaction and communication (Hello, ASD).

One way that we often help students understand stories is through shared reading—you know, sitting with the student, defining words, asking questions, etc. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes you probably feel like you could use some guidance on how to really help the student. 

This study does just that. The authors designed a shared reading intervention and implemented a set of strategies BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER reading narrative stories (shown below) with three elementary-aged students with ASD.

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Note that the WH- questions were aimed at getting the students to think about the characters’ narratives and how the characters felt (e.g., “No one wanted to join her team. How did Olivia feel?”). The interventionists also provided examples that were associated with the questions (e.g., “When do you feel lonely? I feel lonely when I am eating a large pizza alone.”). When the students had difficulty answering the WH- questions, they were told to focus on the highlighted key words.  

After just 6–7 sessions of intervention, all three students improved their reading comprehension scores by answering 100% of the comprehension questions correctly (from 24%). You might be thinking: That’s a lot to do in one session. How can I possibly keep students engaged? And implementing the strategies did add 20 minutes onto sessions; however, the authors found that the students either showed similar or better engagement during intervention.

If shared reading is something you often do with your students, you may want to take a closer look at this study. Since the intervention had multiple components, the authors point out that educators may select specific strategies to suit their needs (not without caution—we have to remember that students benefitted from the whole intervention package).

 

Kim, S. Y., Rispoli, M., Lory, C., Gregori, E., & Brodhead, M. T. (2018). The effects of a shared reading intervention on narrative story comprehension and task engagement of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(10), 3608–3622.