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How to Teach Low-Functioning Teens With Autism: Reading Comprehension

Autistic wraps his head in packaging film and sitting on the bed, grunge room interior.

Low-functioning teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aren’t seen as often as their high-functioning counterparts. They’re the least severe diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). This is the landmark tool used to diagnose mental and behavioral disorders. For Autism, symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from other disabilities.

  • Persistent deficits in social communication and interaction
  • Repetitive behavior, interests, or activities
  • Early childhood symptoms 
  • Significant social challenges in a variety of settings
  • These are not better explained with other diagnoses.

Reading: What is the Problem? 

Low-functioning teens with Autism receive academic and social support in school. They may receive services in traditional and self-contained classrooms. Language and social skills present significant challenges. Building one skill on top of the other facilitates in developing abilities. This “breaking tasks into chunks also makes it faster and more thorough.

Causes of the Problem

Deficits for low-functioning teens with Autism are based on three major theories. They seek to connect brain activity with emotions, abilities, and actions.

Theory of Mind (ToM): The ability to understand the other’s point of view. This impacts the ability to predict others behavior based on context.

Weak Central Coherence: The ability to bring details together for thee whole. The key is to concentrate on the gestalt of concepts or ideas (theme, genre, central concept).

Executive Functioning: The process of organizing, monitoring, and planning. This combination allows readers to explain aspects and concepts.

Want solutions for teaching low-functioning teens with Autism how to read? Check this out.

Autistic man sitting against gift in wrapping paper. 

Classroom Solutions (Research Based) 

High school reading is different from elementary skills. It’s not just reading aloud. Content-area reading comprehension is critical (texts). Effective interventions help low-functioning teens with Autism to reach their fullest potential.

  1. Activate prior knowledge (Williamson & Carnahan, 2016).
  2. Introduce vocabulary/key words before reading (Zimmerman & Hutchins, 2013).
  3. Integrate graphic organizers (Stringfield, Luscre, & Gast, 2011).
  4. Demonstrate how to form and answer questions (Whalon & Haline, 2008).
  5. Summarize reading to make direct and causal relationships (Diehl, Bennetto, & Young, 2006).

Low-functioning teens with Autism pose significant challenges in the classroom. Reading is a significant one. Social deficits can result in negative interaction with peers. Bad behavior and erratic emotions too. Combined with commutative and language deficiencies, “our kids” need extra support in reading. The trick is to understand the unique cognitive style of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Don’t do. Teach.

Question: How do you manage teaching reading to low-functioning teens with Autism?

 



 

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