Elementary and middle-school students with autism think and learn differently from other kids, and most often require specialized instruction when learning to read and spell. This can be a challenge for teachers, but the right tools can certainly make a significant impact on the success of their efforts.
There are excellent products on the market today, including web-based programs developed by Special Ed professionals and designed for students with special needs. Essential Skills offers a highly successful reading program autism teachers recommend to help their students reach their potential in the classroom.
The best instructional materials for autism present a variety of activities in a format that provides the repetition and immediate reinforcement proven to be beneficial when teaching kids on the spectrum. Most educational software will utilize only one or two activity formats, while Essential Skills uses five to ten activities covering a variety of approaches to appeal to all types of learners.
Here are a few other considerations when looking for research-based reading programs for special education:
Direct & Implicit Instruction: The program you choose should present information clearly and make expectations specific. People with autism often struggle with the concept of sequencing, so tasks presented as a series of steps can be difficult or even impossible for some students with autism. It is important to use a reading program autism and Special Ed professionals can readily utilize with each learning objective presented as a single concept and reviewed fully before progressing students to the next skill.
Multisensory Techniques: People with autism sometimes describe their ability to think in pictures, rather than language. Words are learned in relation to imagery. Think of flashcards that show the word as well as the picture. Verbs may need to be enacted to show the motion before the word connection is made. Some students with autism learn by touch, others communicate better with singing than with regular spoken language. Instructional materials for autism should use a variety of techniques to appeal to all the senses, without overwhelming students with unnecessarily repetitive imagery, bright lights or loud sounds.
Rewards & Reinforcements: Like all students, kids with autism are motivated by rewards, but these should be acknowledged with some degree of immediacy. Rather than applying rewards and recognition following a sequence of tasks or activities, Essential Skills programs acknowledge success and provide the student with rewards or reinforcements as soon as each question is answered correctly.
Developed by Special Education Teachers
Essential Skills founder taught Special Education for more than 20 years and applied this knowledge and experience as the foundation for Essential Skills instructional materials for autism. Every program begins with an exhaustive research phase to ensure that the skills being taught reflect solid pedagogy and best practices. If you’re looking for research-based reading programs for special education, Essential Skills should be at the top of your list.