If you’re following this blog, you know I am tutoring my nephew, Christopher. He’s A Sweet Dude (ASD) who flies into the house 4 times a week, calling out, “Aunt Katharine! Aunt Katharine!” When we started working together, I was a bit daunted by his weaknesses in language, social skills, reading comprehension, and writing. But you would not believe his amazing progress! He is a real trooper, working as hard as he can during long sessions after school. Christopher writes 5 paragraph stories using graphic organizers, with over 80% of the work unaided by me. That’s a huge reversal from his inability to write independently at all when we started.
Christopher’s progress in reading is equally strong. While he still does not enjoy reading out loud, he understands that it helps him read more carefully; allows us to discuss unfamiliar vocabulary; and provides opportunities for analysis of characters and plot and making inferences and predictions. I give him a “speeding ticket” when he races past punctuation, his eyes widening with delight as he gets ticketed.
How do I decide what books for him to read? Like many kids on the autism spectrum, Christopher can identify words at grade level, but his comprehension lags well below that. His preferred interests are video games, but given his eagerness for tutoring, I don’t need to stick with Mario Bros to keep his attention. I look for books which are at his word-recognition level and will require him to learn needed skills. Most importantly, I match the essence of him. Christopher has a wacky sense of humor and loves anything gross, with shades of mischief and mayhem (yes, we are related!). That brings to mind Roald Dahl, right? We started with “The Twits” and have graduated to “James and the Giant Peach.” These books provide a socially acceptable way to talk about nostrils and cabbage-shaped aunts and sad events to which he has strong personal connections. Would you believe I have to force him to stop reading? It’s all good.