Learning to read is a complex process. Students need lots of opportunities to practice in order to learn new skills. They also need lots of opportunities to review skills that they have already acquired in order to build great fluency. Ideally, it is best to provide instruction every day. The more practice, the sooner learners will acquire skills.
When we started instruction with Anna, she was only used to sitting still for very brief periods of time. So we started by providing short instructional sessions in each skill (just 10 minutes at a time), ideally 2-3 times a day. As Anna became more motivated to read and as she increased her ability to attend and participate, we gradually increased the length of instructional sessions.
We used visual supports to help Anna understand the expectations during literacy instruction, and to let her know which tasks we would be completing each day. The research suggests that visual schedules are effective in increasing attention and engagement in tasks and decreasing challenging behaviors. In order to show Anna how literacy skills can be used in daily life, we used written text in her visual schedule. Initially, we added pictures or photos of the tasks as well; later we faded these picture supports.
In this video, you will see how we used a visual schedule with an older learner who also had ASD. Like Anna, Bren had limited speech; he had never had the opportunity to participate in literacy instruction. In this video, you will see the instructor reviewing the written schedule with Bren and you will see him choosing the first activity for the instructional session from the list. Once this activity is complete, we will cross it off the list, and Bren will choose the next instructional activity.
We also used count down boards to let Anna know how many instructional trials she had to complete in each skill before a break. Each time she finished a trial, she crossed it off so that she could see her progress.
To provide sufficient time for instruction,
- provide focused instruction at least 5 days per week
- start with short sessions; gradually increase the length
- set clear expectations; use visual supports as needed
- practice new skills repeatedly; review acquired skills