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Autism and Reading Difficulties

by Sarah Forrest | 27 September 2019

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects about 1 in 68 children in the US, or about 1 in 100 in the United Kingdom. Signs of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) usually appear in the first 2 years of life, and include:

  • Communication difficulty
  • Repetitive behaviours or obsessive interest in a small number of things
  • Difficulty with eye contact
  • Difficulty understanding that other people have a point-of-view or inner life
  • Sensory processing sensitivity

For a helpful overview of autism, visit the National Institute for Mental Health site

Autism is usually referred to as ASD now because there is such a wide spectrum, from a non-verbal child to a high-functioning one.

Do all children with autism have reading difficulties?

No! Many become voracious readers. But a recent study showed that children with ASD from ages 3 to 10 were more likely to be in the lowest possible performance bracket for phonemic awareness, which is the foundational skill for good reading.

Why do children with ASD find reading hard?

There are two main reasons for children with ASD to find reading hard:

Phonemic awareness can be poor

As previously mentioned, phonemic awareness was in the lowest possible bracket when autistic children took standardized tests. Having a good awareness of the sounds that make up our language is key to being able to decode and blend words. This trait is shared with children with dyslexia, and causes much frustration.

Easyread’s trainertext visual phonics program is designed to teach the building blocks of our language: phonetic sounds. The visual cues of trainertext tend to be an easy way into phonics for children on the autism spectrum, because they can have strong visual skills. So If this is an area of reading difficulty for your child with ASD, then trainertext can help.

Preference for predictability

Many children with ASD show a clear aversion to change. They may exhibit repetitive behaviours and require predictability in order to feel balanced. English is anything but predictable! Try explaining why the word ‘was’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘gas’. ASD children do not like rules to be broken.

The complexities of language can feel overwhelming to many children with ASD. Trainertext visual phonics simplifies this to a systematic structure where the child can ALWAYS pick the right sound by using the character cue.

Trainertext makes the decoding of words predictable and Easyread’s short 15-minute lessons are comprised of repeated games and activities that also remain within this “safe zone” of predictability.

Try Easyread for free

If any of this rings true for your child, then you can test 10 lessons of Easyread for free. That 10-lesson trial includes a free baseline assessment to confirm the root causes of reading difficulty for your learner and how Easyread can help.

Sarah Forrest is an Advisor for David Morgan Education, and contributor at Helping Children to Read. After studying Spanish literature at Yale University, she worked at Easyread HQ in Oxford, England for 4 years. She now lives in the sunny south of the United States with her two children, where she loves coaching parent and children through pictophonics.

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