Supporting literacy development in students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Woman and child reading

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to reflect on and celebrate our progress and commitment to supporting research that responds to the needs of people on the autism spectrum. Children with ASD have a unique constellation of strengths and weaknesses that impacts their academic and literacy development. Below, we keep the conversation moving by discussing literacy oppositions children on the spectrum may encounter, as well as how we, as a community, can continue providing ALL learners with the high-quality and inclusive literacy education they deserve.


What literacy challenges might a student with ASD face?

Many behaviors that disrupt learning for students with ASD are the result of sensory discomfort. By helping a student with ASD identify and respond to the sensory processing that is inhibiting them, teachers can help eliminate a barrier to learning. In addition, when developing early literacy skills, children on the autism spectrum may experience difficulties with communication and may need extra support in particular areas such as understanding, perspective-taking, attention and seeing the big picture.


How can general education classrooms provide equitable opportunities?  

There are many things schools can do to support a child with autism’s emergent literacy development. What you do now can have a big impact on their literacy and language skills later on.

  • Students with ASD tend to need explicit instruction to gain literacy skills. It’s important that teachers provide students with clear, simple instructions regarding what is expected, even if it seems obvious to others.
  • Choose storybooks that include illustrations of things your child likes and are relevant to your child’s experiences. For example, ALLMemphis’ decodable books are Memphis-based, allowing children to relate to the material while learning about their city. A child’s reading comprehension can greatly increase when they are able to connect their own lives to what they are reading.
  • Use visuals! While students with autism can definitely benefit from verbal instruction, some also require an additional avenue of input as they learn. Teachers can provide this input by using a range of visuals as they lecture.


How is ALLMemphis’ approach inclusive toward ALL learners?

At ALLMemphis, we attribute our impact to the way we’ve taken the previously exclusive Orton-Gillingham approach and made it accessible to ALL students – especially those who experience developmental delays. Orton-Gillingham is geared toward the specific needs of a singular student, making it a direct, structured and personalized way of learning. Instructors teaching the method are encouraged to evaluate students each step of the way – then, they tailor instruction based on their observations.


With our unique coaching methods and top-notch curriculum, ALLMemphis works day in and day out to empower our city’s teachers to make significant and impactful strides in their students’ educational journey. Is your school interested in learning more about our approach which will help your teachers – and, in turn, your students – excel? Contact us today.