Read (and talk) with Me: Book Reading Interactions between Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Their Caregivers.

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
V. Fleury1 and A. B. Ford2, (1)School of Teacher Education, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, (2)Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Background: Professionals advocate for early literacy instruction to be intentionally included in early intervention programming. This targeted instruction is particularly pertinent for children with ASD who are at increased risk for reading difficulties due to social communication deficits that are characteristic of the disorder. Caregivers are instrumental in supporting their children’s literacy and oral language development. Reading aloud to children, often referred to as shared reading, has been repeatedly shown to relate to literacy outcomes.

Objectives: The primary aim of this exploratory investigation is to identify malleable factors associated with children’s participation in shared reading with their caregiver. We will present our most recent findings from this project with the goal of: (1) describing and comparing shared reading between caregivers and their children with ASD and caregivers and their children with typical development (TD) and (2) evaluating the role of book selection on children’s participation and adults’ external reading behaviors.

Methods: A total of 37 parents and their preschool children (n = 17 with ASD; n = 20 with TD) participated in this study. Members of the research team recorded caregivers and their children reading nine books together (i.e., 3 familiar, 3 non-fiction, 3 fiction). Caregivers were instructed to read as they would typically. Researchers coded adult and child external reading behaviors (e.g., comments, questions outside of the text, responses) during shared readings.

Results: Our analyses revealed group differences in reading interactions. Caregivers of children with ASD generally talked more during readings than parents of children with TD (F (1, 35) = 5.59, p =.02, partial eta squared = .138). However, children with ASD demonstrated lower rates of responding to caregiver questions and comments compared to children with TD (F (1, 35) = 4.13, p =.050, partial eta squared = .106).

We also explored relationships between book genre (i.e., non-fiction, fiction, familiar) on external reading behaviors. We found a main effect of book genre on caregiver talk, with caregivers talking more during non-fiction books compared to other genres (Wilk’s Lambda = .52, F (2, 34) = 16.01, p = <.001, partial eta squared .49). Children with ASD responded more frequently to questions posed during familiar books compared to either non-fiction or fiction books (χ2 (2, n = 17) = 14.94, p = .001). The interaction between book genre and rates of responding was not significant for children with TD (χ2 (2, n = 20) = 1.30, p = .52).

Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that caregiver-child interactions during shared reading is qualitatively and quantitatively different for children with ASD and those with TD. Book reading interactions between caregivers and their children with ASD are generally driven by the adult reader. Moreover, many children with ASD may need support in responding to caregiver questions. These findings have potential implications for researchers as they develop shared reading interventions for this population. Malleable factors, such as book genre and caregiver external talk, could serve as the target for intervention efforts.

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