Although there are numerous studies on verbal communication development among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), early literacy is a subject that has very limited studies. If you have a child with ASD that is not in school yet, you may have even heard it's too early to introduce reading. The truth is, for any child, it is never too early to introduce reading and writing skills.
Here are a few tips to help strengthen your child's early literacy skills before they start school.
1. You don't have to wait for them to start talking. It's very common for parents to be advised against introducing reading to their child with ASD until they start talking. This is actually completely false. One study even suggests that working on early literacy skills can actually help develop verbal skills.
2. Provide reading material on subjects that interests them. This is true with any child, but especially those with ASD. Also, please don't feel like you need to stick to the traditional children's story books. Children with ASD truly enjoy learning as much as they can about their favorite topics. You may find your child loves looking at anything they can get their hands on if it's regarding what they're into; this could include anything from bus schedules (if they love buses), car magazines (if they love cars), or even maps!
3. Integrate literacy lessons into your daily lives. Making literacy a part of your daily routine is a great way to get your child interested in reading. Some ways you could do this include wearing name tags around the house, labeling objects, encouraging your child to write their name on their artwork, pointing out words on signs or in print that they may recognize or want to learn, and making crayons and paper available when they feel the urge to play.
4. You don't have to focus on learning the letters. The truth is, learning the letters and their sounds comes easily for most children with ASD. Because of this, it is advised to focus on other things like conversation skills, learning new words, and recognizing sounds (specifically focusing on syllables). Of course introduce the letters, but breaking out the flash cards may not be necessary for your child.
At the Dan Marino Foundation, it is our mission to help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other Developmental Disabilities thrive, and what better way to do that than to get an early start on literacy. We hope you have enjoyed these tips and they help you and your child on the road to literacy.