Reading with Autism: Tips for Helping your Child Stay Engaged
By: Sarah Pope, MS, BCBA, Assistant Vice President of Staff Development
Reading books and taking trips to the library are important milestones for young children in their developmental phase. Even before a child learns to read, storytelling becomes an important tool in helping to associate words with pictures and meanings and developing language skills. Reading to your child with autism can help stimulate interactions and helps encourage the development of language and reading. Even if your child is nonverbal, reading with them can provide opportunities for nonverbal interaction such as pointing to the pictures and turning the pages.
Here are four simple tips to help your child stay engaged while reading.
- Pick an appropriate book. Sitting still for long periods of time can be a challenge for children with autism, so when you first introduce your child to books try selecting something with lots of pictures.
- Encourage interaction. While reading to your child, ask questions to encourage them to interact with the story. For example, ask your child to point to characters or items in the illustrations while you’re reading to help with word association. Also, you can use props to act out scenes in the book, which can help with story retention.
- Repetition can be a good thing. Reading a book aloud several times can help with language development because the child will start to recognize the words and become more familiar with the word and its meaning over time. Books with lots of repetitive words or phrases also can help with this. You’ll find many books designed for new readers often will have repetitive phrasing to help children with this skill, however even if your child isn’t reading yet, it can be helpful for them to hear the repetition as you read aloud.
- Take breaks. Children with autism can sometimes have trouble keeping their attention on one task for long periods of time. If your child cannot sit through an entire story and becomes distracted while you are reading together, take a break. You can also use reading as a transitional tool in your daily routine to signal it is time for bed or a nap.
Being exposed to reading at a young age has many positive effects on a child’s development and story time can be a useful and valuable tool in helping children with autism reach their full potential.