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Adapted Shared Reading for Minimally Verbal Students with Autism


Almost nothing is known about the capacity of minimally verbal students with autism to develop literacy skills. Shared reading is a regular practice in early education settings and is widely thought to encourage language and literacy development. There is some evidence that children with severe disabilities can be engaged in adapted shared reading activities. The current study examines the impact of teacher-led adapted shared reading activities on engagement and story comprehension in minimally verbal 5-6 year old children with autism using a multiple baseline/alternating treatment design. Four students and three teachers participated. Teachers conducted adapted shared reading activities with modified books and used specific strategies for increasing student engagement. Student performance during adapted activities was compared to performance during standard shared reading sessions.

Results: All students showed increased story comprehension and engagement during adapted shared reading. Average percent of session engaged was 87-100% during adapted sessions, compared with 41-52% during baseline. Average number of correct responses to story comprehension questions was 4.2-4.8 out of 6 during adapted sessions compared with 1.2-2 during baseline. Visual supports, tactile objects and specific teaching strategies offer ways for minimally verbal students to meaningfully participate in literacy activities. Future research should investigate adapted shared reading activities implemented classroom-wide, as well as joint engagement, language and literacy outcomes after using such activities over time.

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