by Marcia Hinds – Megan and Ryan’s Mom
Because language comes later for children with autism, many of our kids struggle with reading comprehension. Even though my son is now an engineer, his weakness in this area was one of my main concerns when he was in elementary school. This worried me, since reading comprehension was part of almost every school subject.
Ryan mostly read nonfiction books then. They contained facts and information presented in a predictable way. Most kids don’t find nonfiction topics as interesting as fiction, but for my son they were much easier to understand. Fiction books required too much reading between the lines. In addition, social skills he didn’t understand were in every fiction book. Even though my son had tested in the 88th percentile for language on his IOWA standardized tests, reading comprehension continued to be a struggle. I finally resolved this issue in my mind by thinking it wasn’t important what Ryan liked to read, as long as he did.
Ryan still had odd behaviors then, although his differences were becoming less noticeable. But, it became increasingly obvious that my child was not having much success socially. I would have traded all the things he excelled at academically for one good friend at school. Friends didn’t happen at school and barely happened at home where we were there to help them along. Sometimes we cried together when he finally was with it enough to realize he wasn’t accepted by his peers. He was lonely, his parents and sister were his only friends. Except we weren’t really his friends, we were his family. Ryan had no friends back then.
At home, his beloved computer took the place of the friends he should have had. My son constantly surfed the net to learn as much as he could on any topic that interested him. What I didn’t realize at the time was how that activity provided the escape he needed from the stress of school. I also didn’t realize that the hours he spent on the computer also solved his reading comprehension issue. I just thought it kept him busy and out of my hair.
When he brought home his first reading assignment from his sixth grade English class, we sat down to muddle through together. I said, “Let’s read these pages silently to ourselves and when we are both finished reading, I will ask you a few questions about the section we just read.” To my surprise, he finished light years ahead of me. At first, I thought he didn’t read it thoroughly.
So I asked, “Did you really read all of that?” He insisted he did. So I grilled him on what he read. He knew all the answers. When I moved on to the more complex questions where the answers weren’t obvious but rather inferred, he knew those, too. Ryan answered every question I asked him, even the ones that needed complex interpretation of what happened in the story. Somewhere along the way, when I wasn’t looking, Ryan mastered reading comprehension. It probably resulted from all the time he spent reading things on the internet. Without pre-teaching, he started to learn like other kids. That was the last time I helped him with his reading assignments.
As a previous teacher, I knew reading comprehension was mostly practice, but it surprised me when he mastered it all on his own. I guess those years spent surfing the internet had the side benefit of making him read at warp speed and at the same time learn the important reading comprehension skills. I used to feel guilty about letting him spend so much time on the computer. I thought it was time I should have been working with him. Who knew that letting him have unrestricted computer time would actually turn out to be a good thing.
NOTE FROM MARCIA HINDS – Megan and Ryan’s mom:
Ryan became an aerospace engineer, because he received proper medical treatment combined with behavioral, and educational interventions. To preview my book, “I Know You’re In There – winning our war against autism”go to Amazon or my website www.autism-and-treatment.com
Contact info for Marcia: