It is a well-known fact that most children with autism sometimes manifest a particular interest on a specific subject. They are so focused on something at a certain point, that they seem to be out of whack with reality. This is known as “preservative interest”. On this subject, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, Michael Solis, conducted a study which demonstrated that such symptoms of autism could be used to improve the child’s reading comprehension capabilities.
To support this theory, Solis believes that a child will better comprehend a written text if it contains something of his interest. For instance, if the child is interested in wild animals and the text contains many references to them, he will manage to better comprehend it. This way, an autistic symptom is transformed into a tool which eventually improves that condition – refer to our post on how interest-based reading can help aid autistic children.
Solis states that “There is an increasingly large body of research on improving behavior and social performance in children with ASD”. Even so, he specifies that this is just a beginning of the research cycle to study the academic performance of children that have an autism-related disorder.
He also argues that reading comprehension is extremely important for kids with autism as this is a fundamental skill-set to safeguard future higher education and employment prospects. Unfortunately, in the last 30 years, researchers conducted only 12 studies in this regard.
Recently, various strategies are being designed and used to teach written text comprehension to children with autism. This is on the backdrop of an interesting study conducted back in 2013, where such strategies proved to be highly beneficial to the rest of the children while being less effective for those with autism spectrum disorder.
This previous assessment motivated the researchers to conduct a series of additional studies on the same subject. They started by creating a parallel between the two different approaches. The first one used the traditional methods of teaching comprehension while the second one focused on preservative interest. Both approaches were combined with reinforcements and positive behavior support. On completion of the study, the results from the second approach revealed an increased performance in reading and involvement from children with autism.
Solis concludes that: “This is good news because we have preliminary data that shows promise in techniques that can improve both reading performance and engagement in reading”.
With these findings as a starting point, new effective strategies can be developed to help children with autism to not only focus on a written text but also to comprehend summarize the same.