Objectives: The objective of this study is to examine the effectiveness of a reading intervention and to determine whether this intervention is effective for a wide range of students with ASD.
Methods: Forty-three students diagnosed with ASD were randomly assigned to a control condition (N = 20; regular classroom activities) or to an intervention condition (N = 23; reading intervention: three 30 minute sessions per week for four months). The intervention was offered in small groups (three or four students) by a research assistant. Reading vocabulary, paragraph main idea identification and text structure were targeted. The instruction was explicit, structured and interactive. Fidelity of implementation was monitored through direct observations. Students were assessed on researcher-developed measures of instructed vocabulary, general comprehension (recall) and main idea identification.
Results: Mean comparisons of control and intervention students indicate that the intervention is highly effective, with effect sizes (d) varying between 0.60 (general reading comprehension) and 0.80 (instructed vocabulary). Among students’ pretest characteristics (mastery of basic reading skills, performance IQ, receptive vocabulary, oppositional behavior), only oppositional behavior appears predictive of the degree to which students benefited from the intervention, with students rated as oppositional by their teachers benefiting less.
Conclusions: Interestingly, the results of this study seem to indicate that it is possible to significantly improve the reading comprehension of a wide range of students with ASD, including those with limited basic reading skills or oral vocabulary or relatively low IQ. These results have implications for the development of future reading interventions.