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Reading Comprehension Strategies for Autistic Students- 3 Ways to Utilize Pictures

May 21, 2020 No Comments

Reading Comprehension Strategies for Autistic Students

Reading comprehension can be a challenge for autistic students. When teaching reading comprehension, it is important to provide students with supports. Picture supports are an important reading strategy for autistic students and can assist them with all the steps of reading comprehension. Here are three ways to utilize pictures when teaching reading comprehension strategies to autistic students.

1. Pictures can assist with pre-reading

Before reading a passage to a student or before the student reads the passage, utilize the pictures available. Look at the pictures with the student. Ask the student what he/she sees. Have the students identify items in the scene. Ask the student to locate various images in the scene. If appropriate, ask the student what they believe is happening in the picture or what they believe will happen. Use the pictures to introduce new vocabulary to the students and the sight words that go with them. Understanding pictures during pre-reading is a vital reading comprehension strategy for students with autism.  


2. Pictures provide reading support  

Once the student has completed some of the aforementioned pre-reading activities, it will be time for the student to read the passage (or have the passage read to them depending on age/ability level). As the student is reading, the pictures can provide support in reading and understanding the text. Throughout the passage, stop and discuss with the student what they are reading. Connect the words to the pictures. Encourage the students to look to the picture when faced with an unfamiliar word or a word they have forgotten. Ask students questions about the text and ask them to read it again. As was done in the pre-reading step, connect the sight words with the items in the image. Pictures can also help students relate to the content and make a connection. Using pictures to support reading expands the knowledge gained in pre-reading. 

3. Using anchor charts to answer questions

When the student has finished reading the passage, it is often time for students to answer questions related to what they have read. Anchor charts can be exceptionally helpful. More specifically, anchor charts designed to assist in answering “wh-” questions are beneficial. For example, if the question begins with “what,” the student can refer to his/her anchor chart. From there, the student will know that a “what” question is typically related to things and actions. Thus when answering the question, the student knows the answer will contain a thing or an action. Picture supports on the anchor chart can also assist the student in making this connection.

What anchor charts can I use?

Option 1: You can download my FREE “Anchor Charts for Wh- questions” resource.

If you are interested in creating your own anchor charts, you can pull images from the specific text you are using. You can also use images from the internet, magazines, clip art, etc. Because of the information gained about the text in the first two steps, using pictures on anchor charts to answer questions is a valuable support in teaching reading comprehension to autistic students.

Additional reading comprehension strategies for autistic students

Some additional reading comprehension strategies for autistic students would include finding simple, on level reading passages (which only need to be a sentence or two to start) for the students to read. It is also beneficial if the text includes images that relate to the sentences themselves, as stated above. These passages can be found in books, in computer activities, or even in a reading curriculum you already have in your classroom. 



If you are in search of a ready to use reading comprehension product to assist you in implementing these reading comprehension strategies for autistic students, be sure to check out my Adapted Reading Comprehension resources. As an added benefit, my Adapted Reading Comprehension resources are seasonally themed.  The resource uses a single sentence with pictures, answer choices in a field of 2 or 3 images, as well as related “wh” question anchor charts to assist the student in answering questions as independently as possible.


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