Objectives: We sought to determine whether the application of instructional strategies derived from ABA to the task of reading comprehension would foster skill mastery in learners with ASD who have been making limited progress in reading comprehension.
Methods: A reading comprehension curriculum and instructional sequence was developed based on the principles of ABA. The particular skills addressed included identification of non-fiction text features, the identification of text structures, selection and completion of graphic organizers corresponding to text structures, comprehension monitoring, and identifying main idea. This protocol was piloted with a nine-year-old student with ASD with average single word reading and reading fluency skills, but weaknesses in both literal and inferential comprehension. The curriculum was implemented four days a week for two hours over a four-week period. Direct instruction procedures were utilized across all lessons. Data were reviewed daily in order to assess progress and determine needed changes. A combination of high-preference content and grade-level curriculum content were presented across three instructors to assess generalization of skills. By April 2013 a total of 3 students will have completed the intervention.
Results: Results from the pilot study demonstrate that the student mastered targets across seven lesson plans, including distinguishing four non-fiction text structures with selection and completion of a corresponding graphic organizer for each. Monitoring for comprehension through the use of marking stop points in a text and self-questioning with open-ended questions selected from a visual at each stop point was mastered. In addition, the student made significant progress on identifying main idea, moving from single words, to phrases, with an eventual progression to identifying main idea of a paragraph.
Conclusions: The program was successful in increasing skills across all seven lesson plans in the series for a nine-year old student with ASD. Implementation of the curriculum with additional participants has begun. The generalization of this intervention is currently being conducted in public school settings and therefore will assess the functionality of this curriculum when presented in a less-intensive teaching environment by school staff.
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