Purpose: Children with autism have an increased likelihood of reading difficulties. The reasons for this are numerous and varied, but many children with autism can learn to read when they are provided with evidence-based early reading instruction. Method: Here, we provide an overview of some of the factors that impact early reading development for children with autism and a rationale for the provision of comprehensive early reading instruction consistent with the recommendations of the National Reading Panel (NRP). We discuss research on NRP instruction for children with autism, including some of our own empirical studies. We also discuss some areas of research that were not emphasized by the NRP but that we view as important. We offer recommendations that extend beyond NRP guidelines in order to advance knowledge and improve practice. Conclusions: Comprehensive early reading instruction holds great promise for children with autism, but there are gaps in our understanding that need to be addressed. These include the most effective method(s) for tailoring reading instruction to the needs of the individual while optimizing delivery to small groups of children, supporting skills and making other accommodations not outlined by the NRP, and consideration of bilingualism and of reading instruction in languages other than English, among other issues. While our focus in this review article is early reading instruction for children with autism who use oral language, we acknowledge that there is a major gap in the literature concerning reading instruction for those who do not use oral language. We hope that this review article will be helpful to clinicians, educators, and researchers alike, as well as children with autism and their families, friends, and support networks.
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© 2021 The Authors.
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