Autistic children, even those that are completely nonverbal, can learn to read with a little help from you. Each child will start at a different level. Read through the article and start teaching your child at the level that is best for them.
Yes/No Flash Cards
Using 3″ x 5″ white index cards, write “Yes” on one card and “No” on the other. Ask your child questions and instruct them to tap either the “Yes” card or the “No” card. Use the hand over hand technique to help your child answer until they are able to do so on their own.
You can use the flash cards throughout your day until your child is comfortable communicating with the cards and essentially “reading” the words yes and no.
You can switch the placement of the cards to make sure that your child is truly reading them.
Using a children’s book that your child is familiar with, make flash cards for the keywords in the story. Words such as dog, cat, duck and rat are easy to begin with. Also, photocopy pages of the book and then cut out the characters that you have made flashcards for. For example, you should have a picture of a duck and a flash card of a duck to use while you are reading the story about a duck to your child.
First place two of the cut out pictures on the table in front of the book. After you have read the page to your child, ask him or her a question about what you just read. For example, “Who’s truck is stuck in the mud?” Your child should touch the picture of the duck. You may need to use the hand over hand technique until your child is answering on their own.
Once your child has mastered answering questions with two choices of cut out pictures for the answer, increase the amount of answers to three choices.
Once your child has mastered answering questions with three choices for answers, switch to using the the word flash cards with the cut out pictures.
Slowly you will be able to swap all of the cut out pictures with the word flash cards. Your child will be able to read the words that you have taught him or her.
Make more flash cards and more picture cut outs until your child has learned all of the words in the story that have a corresponding picture. This may take days, weeks, months or even years depending on the ability level of your child. Do not give up, these baby steps will work eventually.
After your child has mastered the words in the story that have corresponding pictures, you can move onto words that do not have pictures such as “the,” “and,” “at” and “on.” You will need to make word flash cards for each of the words you are trying to teach your child. Luckily, flash cards are cheap. Always use thick black ink and print in the normal capitalization for that word. Do not use all caps or capitalize words that should not be.
As you are reading this very familiar story with your child, stop on the word that you want to teach. For example if you are trying to teach “and,” stop on the word and ask your child to touch “and.” Using a field of just one choice at first and then move up to two and then three choice selections. Use hand over hand techniques to help your child to answer if he or she cannot do so on their own.
Eventually, you will be able to teach your child to read numerous words individually and at some point, sentences. If your child cannot speak, you can check to see if he or she can ready by asking them to point to the word that you say.
Don’t give up, your child can learn much more than you think.