While intensive applied behavior analysis intervention is accepted as an evidence-based practice for increasing the social competence and communication of children with ASD, little is known about effective methods for preparing children with ASD to be academically successful (e.g., competent readers). Even less is known about the development and instruction of reading-related skills in preschool children with ASD. The health consequences for failing to develop reading proficiency are dire for all children, including children with ASD. Reading is a pivotal skill;without the ability to read, there is a strong likelihood that as they grow up, children with ASD will encounter a lack of post-secondary educational opportunities, employment, and participation in citizenship. Reading is also a functional skill;without functional literacy skills needed for independent living, leisure time activities, and supported employment, it will be difficult for adults with ASD to lead self-sufficint lives. The goal of this proposed project is to determine the immediate (end of preschool) and longer term (end of kindergarten) effects of preschool interventions based on areas that have been previously shown to be important for emergent literacy and improved reading and language outcomes. To investigate these interventions, we will use three randomized control trials to test the efficacy of (a) Dialogic Reading and Phonological Awareness interventions in comparison to untutored peers and (b) compare the efficacy of the two interventions with each other. We will also examine whether intervention benefits are greater for certain child characteristics to determine under what conditions the treatments are most effective. Because it is important for young children to arrive in kindergarten prepared for conventional literacy instruction, this study will also follow-up children one year post-intervention to determine for which outcomes children with ASD continue to benefit from preschool intervention. Finally, we will examine which preschool pretest characteristics predict kindergarten outcomes for children across experimental conditions in order to determine which early literacy skills are most important indicators of later reading success for children with ASD - something that is currently unknown for children with ASD.

Public Health Relevance

There are more people with Autism Spectrum Disorder each year. Finding effective treatments for this disorder is a national priority. We are studying preschool reading interventions to find the one that best prepares young children for reading instruction once they come to school.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Kau, Alice S
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University of Washington
Schools of Education
United States
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