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Title: Autism and reading comprehension : bridging theory, research and practice
Author: Roberts, Elizabeth
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Existing research investigating the reading abilities of children with a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) has consistently identified reading comprehension difficulties in this group alongside well-developed word recognition (decoding) skills. However, this is currently an underresearched area, particularly in relation to identifying impairments in component discourse level comprehension skills involved in the complex task of deriving meaning from text, and developing interventions to improve reading comprehension for children with an ASC. Study One investigated the reading, cognitive and receptive language abilities of 24 children (10 - 12 years) with a clinical diagnosis of an ASC. All children attended a mainstream primary or secondary school in an outer London Local Authority. Children were involved in the research during the period of primary to secondary transition, either in the final term of primary (Year 6) or first two terms of secondary school (Year 7). Standardised measures of reading accuracy, reading comprehension, word reading, cognitive ability and receptive language abilities were obtained and a number of discourse level comprehension skills assessed: comprehension monitoring, anaphoric reference, knowledge of story structure, identification and agreement of pronouns, prediction, text-connecting and global coherence inference. Semistructured interviews were carried out to gain an insight into children with ASC's as "readers". Findings highlighted the heterogeneity of reading and cognitive profiles and receptive language abilities in children with ASC's. The majority of the sample scored within the average range for both standardised measures of reading accuracy and comprehension, however a discrepancy between standard scores for the two component skills (accuracy > comprehension) characterised the sample. Measures of verbal abilities and receptive language abilities were found to be significantly associated with both reading comprehension, reading accuracy and word reading. Individual differences were found in relation to strengths and weaknesses in component comprehension skills, however common difficulties with comprehension monitoring, global coherence inferences and prediction were apparent within the sample. Study Two involved the development of a reading comprehension intervention involving three children from Study One, in their first term of secondary education. Analysis of the children's component comprehension skills informed the development of an individually tailored intervention; facilitating the children's awareness and development of skills and processes involved in reading comprehension. The intervention utilized a think-aloud procedure and incorporated the "Fab Four" strategies from the reciprocal teaching approach. Individual case synopses illustrated areas of competence and difficulty, approaches to learning and use of strategies to facilitate the development of metacognitive skills. Pre and post intervention measures indicated gains for all children in reading comprehension, but to differing degrees. Findings are discussed with reference to the theories of autism and implications for parents, teachers and Educational Psychologists supporting the learning of children with ASC's. Opportunities for future research in this field are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Phys.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology and Human Development