When it comes to learning to read, new research from the Flinders Caring Futures Institute suggests that explicit instruction is beneficial for all children with autism – not just those from English-speaking backgrounds.
A new report published in international journal Autism, found that explicit instruction – a method of directly teaching the link between the writing system of the language and the speech sounds of that language, known as phonics skills in alphabetic languages – is beneficial for children with autism learning to read and write, including in languages other than English.
Professor Joanne Arciuli, lead of the Caring Futures Institute’s Methodological Innovation Enabling Theme, has dedicated much of her research career towards communication in child development and disability.
“Much of what we know about autism and literacy instruction comes from studies that only include monolingual English-speaking children, however, less than one fifth of the world’s population only speak English,” she says.
“We wanted to explore the research in this area that exists around children who speak languages other than English as it will help us better understand how children with autism around the world can be supported to read and write. Reading and writing skills are very important for academic, vocational, and social activities.”
Speech pathologist and Research Fellow Dr Benjamin Bailey and Professor Joanne Arciuli carried out a review to examine existing research into literacy instruction for children with autism around the world.
“We had flagged this issue in some earlier papers but we really wanted to conduct a systematic review on the topic of literacy instruction for autistic children who speak languages other than English. We want to better understand how learning to read and write can be supported for autistic children,” they say.
Dr Bailey led the review which identified 29 studies on literacy instruction for autistic children who speak languages other than English.
“Our review explores the learning outcomes of autistic children around the world who received targeted teaching of word reading and spelling, reading comprehension and written expression skills,” he says.
Dr Bailey and Professor Arciuli hope the review encourages diversity in future research in order to support all autistic children.
Bailey B, Arciuli J. Literacy instruction for autistic children who speak languages other than English. Autism. 2021 Jul 7:13623613211025422. doi: 10.1177/13623613211025422. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34233507.