It’s a common misconception that children with autism who are nonverbal cannot learn how to read. In fact, all children are born learners. However, some of the traditional methods of literacy instruction may not work. Parents can’t ask the child to sound out letters out loud, for instance. But there are other ways of teaching a child to read. Your child’s ABA therapist can help you get started with reading lessons at home.
Read with your child every day.
Whether or not a child is nonverbal, it’s absolutely crucial to read with him or her every day. Shared reading encourages language acquisition, letter and word recognition, and reading comprehension. Reading together helps feed your child’s curiosity about the world.
Encourage nonverbal interactions with books.
Children with autism who are nonverbal can interact with the story even if they can’t have a conversation about it. First, get into the habit of “underlining” each sentence with your finger as you read it. Later, you can ask your child to trace underneath the words. You can also ask your child to turn the pages for you. The two of you can act out the story, perhaps using props like stuffed animals.
Use an AAC device.
Your nonverbal child probably already uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. You can use this to supplement the reading lessons you do with your child. Download pictures and their accompanying words that are related to the story. If the story is about the ocean, download pictures to depict the ocean, fish, whales, and ships. Encourage your child to use the symbols to discuss the story with you. Your child’s AAC device should always display the words next to their pictures. If not, adjust the settings. As your child starts to recognize words, try reducing the size of the pictures and increasing the size of the words.
The Behavior Exchange provides a complete spectrum of autism therapy services in the Plano area. These include school consulting and advocacy services, such as IEP evaluation and drafting. Parents can reach our autism treatment center at (888) 716-8084.