Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Aspergers Students and Poor Reading Comprehension


I have an Aspergers student who is in 2nd grade and reads at a grade 4 level. While his level is 4, his comprehension is extremely poor. Is there some way to push his reading forward, yet address his comprehension issue? Some of the other teachers believe that I should not push him in his reading level …they said the focus should be on comprehension. I would like for him to continue reading at the level he is challenged at, while addressing his comprehension. What are your thoughts?


Children with Aspergers (high functioning autism) struggle with some aspects of language, and as a result, reading comprehension is affected as well. "Aspies" are mainly visual thinkers, so they find it difficult to think with words and understand them. Here are some tips to help with reading comprehension in Aspergers children:

1. Use fictional stories carefully: Aspergers children find it difficult to understand stories about things that are not concrete or tangible. Thus, they may find it difficult to comprehend and enjoy fantasy stories. One way around this is to provide books about practical experiences and about things that the child has felt and experienced. Aspergers children will also enjoy non-fiction stories about things that they are interested in.

2. Focus on abstract words: Aspergers children find it difficult to understand abstract words (e.g., ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, ‘what’). Help the child read short paragraphs so he can understand the function of these words (e.g., “Where do birds go in the winter?” … “What are some of the colors in a rainbow” … “Why does frost collect on the window in cold weather”).

3. Limit sentences on a page: When Aspergers children start learning to read, they may find it difficult to cope with too many words or sentences per page. Also, some Aspies struggle to attend to the exact word or line that they are supposed to read. Thus, limiting the number of sentences on a page helps the child concentrate better and read more easily.

4. Use social stories: Social stories are short stories with realistic pictures that illustrate common scenarios in daily life. Comic strip conversations are small illustrations where the conversation is recorded in bubbles like a comic strip. Both strategies provide an opportunity for the Aspergers child to observe the pictures and understand it in the context of the words. He will also develop social skills via social stories.

5. Use stories with pictures: When an Aspergers child is learning to read, he may enjoy reading more if he has stories with pictures that illustrate the sentence. The pictures must exactly illustrate the sentence and not be abstract. This will help the Aspergers child to understand the meaning of the words and follow the story.

6. Use word cards with pictures: You will want to create a lot of word cards with pictures. While introducing language to Aspergers children, try to associate words with pictures (e.g., associate the word “up” with a plane going up; bring a toy plane “down” as you show the child the written form of the word “ down”).

An Aspergers student who can decode well - but has little understanding of what he reads - may become a good “word caller” but not a skillful reader. Using the techniques above should help improve the child’s reading ability as well as increase his reading comprehension.

The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

Mark, that information is great.
On my daughter's case, 7th grade, she reads fast but her comprehension is poor. She has difficulty seeing the big picture.

When asked what is about she can't tell the main idea, she goes over the whole details and gets lost.
I was wondering which strategies would be appropriate for her rade level.
Thanks for your good topics.


Anonymous said...

We also find that our daughter's struggle with reading comprehension reaches over to a struggle in writing reports. She has had to write many paragraphs this year and I DREAD the melt-downs that usually come with them. She is slowly managing, but it is frustrating for both of us for her to continually have to deal with these assignments. She can't SEE the big picture let alone WRITE about it! Any chance there will be a follow up article addressing that, Mark? :)
I will say that I am extremely pleased with daughters school in what they have done for her in her reading. They implement all of the suggestions given and her comprehension in reading is usually in the higher percentages. We just need some good tools for the report writing...

Bulldogma said...

We are dealing with the same thing. One of the biggest problems we face is that my 7-year-old girl Aspie is so literal. If she reads that "Joey had ants in his pants as he waited for his ride on the roller-coaster," well... in her mind small insects have invaded poor Joey's clothing as he stood waiting.

Often the questions used to measure comprehension include emotion queries; "Why was Silvia happy to see James?" or "How do you think Ronald felt when he saw Jessie?"

In all honesty, these questions are not *fair* for children with Aspergers and should not act as a measure of reading comprehension - they are a measure of social comprehension. My daughter finds herself at a complete loss when it comes to answering questions about other people's feelings.

Just my thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I've known my son to have this problem since grade 1. Maybe this article will finally get the schools to understand.

Anonymous said...

Try finding someone who teaches the Lindamood-bell learning process. My 6 year old has just started and is already improving. It seems he really is starting to read and understand the story. The whole year in kindergarten was a disaster! This year he is making fantastic progress. Monique.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content