A new study from University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education offers insight into academic interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The researchers designed and tested a method for embedding children’s ‘perseverative interests’—the subject of a child with ASD’s intense focus—in instructional materials. This method for teaching reading comprehension improved reading skill and increased engagement during reading instruction. The study could lead to more effective academic interventions for children with ASD.
The researchers adapted reading instruction materials to children with ASD in three single-case design studies. The reading materials incorporated each child’s perseverative interest. For example, if a child’s interest was cars, the text included multiple references to cars. The researchers compared a typical method of reading instruction with instruction using the adapted materials.
The preliminary findings show that using instructional materials that include a child’s perseverative interest can improve engagement during reading instruction. This method also lead to improvement in curriculum-based measurements of reading comprehension in children with ASD.
The study authors emphasize the need for academic interventions for children with ASD. Many effective reading interventions have been developed for children in various special needs populations. However, these same interventions have not worked well for children with ASD.
Co-author of the study Michael Solis, assistant professor of special education, states that the study contributes to the relatively understudied area of academic interventions for children with ASD. “There is an increasingly large body of research on improving behavior and social performance in children with ASD. However, we are just beginning to make inroads in research on the academic performance of these children.”
This forthcoming article will publish in the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.
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