Autism is a developmental disability that affects nearly 1 in 150 children. Autism is considered a spectrum disorder that affects children to different degrees. Because autistic children can be easily overstimulated and prone to repetitive mannerisms, literacy activities for autistic children need to be catered to the needs of the autistic child.
Understand Autism and the Autistic Child
Since autism is a spectrum disorder, every child with autism is different. Parents and teachers should have a good general understanding of autism and what it means if they work with a child with autism on a regular basis. Learning what works with individual children with autism is a process and will often involve trying several different literacy activities before finding one that the child enjoys.
Avoid Multi-Sensory Activities
Children with autism are easily overstimulated by too much sensory input. Using a variety of storytelling methods such as puppets, songs, and using an overly animated voice can be frightening for some children with autism. Keep storytelling methods simple and switch gears if one method seems to be making a child uncomfortable. Plan to work on the literacy activity in a place that is free from distractions, including strange lighting, distracting noises, and lots of visual aids.
Expect Fluctuating Attention
Children with autism tend to avoid eye contact and frequently appear to ignore the people around them. Do not be offended if a child with autism does not appear to be paying attention during a literacy activity. The child with autism is often listening even when he appears to not be paying attention.
Clearly Explain the Literacy Activity
Sit down with the child with autism and clearly explain what you are going to be doing during the literacy activity before starting. Picture cards can be helpful in helping the child with autism understand what to expect. Since many children with autism are non-verbal, it is important to look for non-verbal clues that the child is uncomfortable with the activity. Let the child with autism know in the beginning that you will stop the activity if it appears to make him uncomfortable.