I have a loved one who was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As I was present for his PT sessions, I realized that much of what the instructor was doing, I as a librarian had done the same during read-alouds and Story Time. After the sessions it had me thinking about my practices during storytime. With that in mind I did what all librarians do which is research, specifically on Autism Spectrum Disorder and reading.
In my info gathering I stumbled upon this tutorial : “Building Comprehension Skills of Young Children with Autism One Storybook at a Time by Veronica P. Fleury, Kelly Whalon, Carolyn Gilmore, Xiaoning Wang and Richard Marks. They acknowledged that Shared Book Reading is an important and useful tool in building comprehension skills that can help children with ASD with their early literacy skills. This tutorial addresses the different aspects of reading comprehension and how story book reading can help children with ASD and offers strategies to help children.
The points that stood out for me in this tutorial are:
Interactive Shared Reading
As librarians we know that reading to children at an early age is integral to their reading comprehension skills in future. Research has supported that. Fleury et. al states, “Shared reading activities provide context to teach-specific social communication skills that are characteristically difficult for learners with ASD but are essential for later comprehension. Creating individualized instructional goals for learners helps guide instruction.” Shared reading can offer a place where ASD children can learn behavior and social skills that can improve their comprehension skills in the future. Studies show that parents and caregivers who engage in shared reading activities in which the parents are actively asking questions and commenting on the text while reading with their children improved the participation of their children (Fleury et al., 2021).
Children with Autism Spectrum suffer from oversensitivity and under sensitivity to sensory stimuli. The way in which the environment is set can help an ASD child thrive. It gives them cues for what is going on. It is important to think about how we set up our rooms for storytime or read alouds (Fleury et al., 2021). This point brought an interaction that I noticed when we created an early literacy corner in our library children’s room. I had books, puppets, and lots of toys. It was chaotic. Then I decided to add purpose to the space at different times of the day. In the mornings the space was for play time and so I had more toys out. In the afterschool time I removed the toys and added more books and I saw the difference. It allowed for the families a time to play without worrying about interrupting readers and readers had their quiet reading time. It also made me think of storytimes when there was a child that was constantly crying and they would have to leave. As I think back to those times I felt disappointed in myself. What if the crying is due to oversensitivity? What can I do? Storytime is not just for quiet kids. Those were thoughts that occupied my mind as I continued to read. I of course use transitional songs to prep the audience for the next song or book. Perhaps I can use transitional songs to quiet down the room to allow for children who are overstimulated a breather.
Reading this tutorial and my personal experience has given me another lens to examine the programs that I offer and help me to truly make it inclusive.
Today’s blog post was written by Ruth Guerrier-Pierre, Senior Children’s Librarian at Kips Bay Library of The New York Public Library in New York City on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at Ruthguerrierpierre@nypl.org.
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of :
I. Commitment to Client Group
III. Programming Skills
V. Outreach and Advocacy