Training Teachers: Implementing Reading Skills & Literacy Programming within Schools
While some students with ASD may proceed through literacy development at a typical pace, many students struggle with some aspect of literacy skills. Students with ASD may struggle with letter recognition, decoding, or reading comprehension. In addition, some characteristics of ASD, e.g. theory of mind and struggles with understanding social behavior, may affect the interpretation of a characters intentions or actions in a storyline. Teachers rarely receive specialized training in autism, and may encounter difficulties in their attempts to provide effective literacy opportunities for their students with ASD.
During our training, participants learn how to apply literacy interventions across a range of skill sets (early reading, emergent reading, fluent readers). The training is multi-modal. It includes lectures, real life examples, video demonstration, and opportunities to create adapted reading materials. At the end of training, participants must be able to create and teach reading activities; as well as provide multiple literacy opportunities for their pupils. The training incorporates structured teaching methodology which is specifically designed to accommodate the characteristic strengths, and neurological differences of individuals on the autism spectrum.
This study investigated the effectiveness of the training model to increase teacher competence in literacy programming. The study addressed (i) competence of literacy programming gained across the training period (ii) the implementation of specific reading strategies following training.
(i) Participating teachers (n= 70) who attended the training workshop completed a structured questionnaire pre and post training.
The questionnaire was developed and piloted by the lead trainers to assess key aspects of literacy skills interventions. Each of three sections described a student with skills sets at the concrete level (pre-reader); intermediate level (emergent reader); abstract level (fluent reader). Participants answered four questions in each section regarding that child. The final questionnaire had 12 questions; maximum total score of 72.
(ii) 10-14 days following training, participants were contacted by email and asked to return a survey of literacy skills strategies they implemented in their schools.
i) T-test revealed that there was a significant ( p<.01) increase in competence scores pre and post training at each level of literacy development (concrete, intermediate, abstract).
ii) A response rate of n= 42 (60%) was achieved for the follow up survey.
Follow up questions indicated that some aspect of the structured teaching training was implemented into practice by n=40 (95%) of responders. Direct observation of a small number of classrooms was achieved at follow up (n=10). Self-report and direct observation of implemented strategies was 100%, indicating that self-report was accurate in a small sample.
By attending the training, participants increased their confidence in their ability to teach literacy, at any level of reading ability, to individuals with ASD. Furthermore, once they returned to their home schools they implemented a multitude of literacy techniques. Although satisfaction of training was very high, desire for ongoing consultation is an issue that could be addressed. These results indicate the effectiveness of our training program. The training is now being provided to other professionals in the field.