Teaching Reading in the Secondary Autism Classroom

Teaching reading skills in a secondary self-contained classroom can be tough.  Most of our students are reading significantly below their grade levels.  Many times, we are also dealing with students at a wide variety of reading levels.  The biggest challenge is often finding materials that are not only at the students’ instructional reading levels but also of high interest.  Yes, there are a lot of moving parts when planning for reading.  However, there are ways to ensure reading in fun, functional, and age appropriate.

Graphic organizers

Teach students to use graphic organizers during guided reading.  Make sure you use ones that are related to the skills you are trying to teach (ex: wh questions, sequencing, etc.)  Once your students are well-versed, you can have them try using the graphic organizer for independent reading.  One thing I love to do to as a visual prompt for students to understand when they need to stop and add a detail to a graphic organizer is to take a sticky note and stick it on the page where they need to stop and read.

Adapted texts

Thankfully, there are tons of adapted texts available for secondary students.  News 2 You is an awesome way to implement social studies reading while maintaining a lower reading level.  Curriculums like Reading to Standard by the Attainment Company also include adapted texts, such as Holes and Number the Stars.  They even give students exposure to timeless poetry, such as Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.  There are tons of adapted text on the website http://www.ric.edu/sherlockcenter/wwslist.html.
Ever have that the issue of finding age-appropriate picture books for read alouds, but the text is way too advanced?  Try modifying the text.  You can simply change the text and overlay it over the text in the books.  I recently adapted the text for The Empty Pot, a picture book about honesty.  More mature picture books are hard to come by, so it made a great text to use with my students.
With adapted texts, you can also add in repeated storylines.  I find lines of texts that are repeated help with fluency as well as maintaining attention to the story.  If you have non-vocal learners, you can easily program the repeated lines in to a communication device.  You can also use the awesome recordable answer buzzers to record repeated lines.

 Peer-mediated fluency

Nothing’s more fun than playing teacher.  In my previous post about promoting peer-yoked language, I discussed how I had my students work on fluency skills together.  I created a datasheet for the instructor as to how to test their peer on data.  Not only does this give students a chance to practice fluency, it also opens up the opportunity for students to interact in a meaningful way.

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