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Discourse comprehension intervention for high-functioning students with autism spectrum disorders: preliminary findings from a school-based study

Journal article
Authors Jakob Åsberg
Annika Dahlgren Sandberg
Published in Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs
Volume 10
Issue 2
Pages 91-98
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 91-98
Language en
Keywords Discourse comprehension, autism spectrum disorders, instruction, school, literacy, special education
Subject categories Psychology

Abstract

Many students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) demonstrate comprehension difficulties. In the present study, 12 high-functioning Swedish students with ASD (aged 10–15 years) took part in a naturalistic classroom-based intervention to support comprehension of connected narrative discourse. An effective approach for supporting discourse comprehension in children with ASD was assumed to include: (i) providing teachers and students with a shared and explicit set of concepts for talking and thinking about the activity of comprehension, that (ii) can structure the child’s discourse comprehension under scaffolding and modelling from the teacher. In the pre-testing session, the students with ASD presented with poor discourse comprehension but receptive vocabulary and reading decoding skills close to normative performance. Post-intervention test results, following 4 weeks of training, indicated specific and significant improvements in discourse comprehension. Support for the potential of this type of teaching was also obtained from teachers and students. The teachers reported that they would continue to use the same or similar comprehension instruction for 11 out of 12 students, and for multiple reasons, and students were also mostly positive to the training. Implications for practice and further research are discussed, as are limitations of the study.

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