Christopher is my autistic nephew, a sweetheart of a kid with many delightful qualities. You might remember how determined he was that all his sibs got an equal share of candy at Halloween.
Christopher is loving, attentive, eager to please, and confident in his math skills. When I wrote my post on reading comprehension strategies for ASD kids, I was hoping for an opportunity to tutor Christopher. Voila! Opportunity realized.
I started with an evaluation of Christopher’s skills. His teachers reported at least a 2-year discrepancy between his reading accuracy and comprehension, something I had already noticed informally. He makes excellent use of phonics, which is not typical of kids on the spectrum, in my experience. Sure, he has easily memorized many words, but he can also decode unfamiliar multisyllabic words in isolation. By self-report, he “HATES to read and stinks at it.” I explored his problem-solving skills using the LinguiSystem TOPS-3 materials, suppressing giggles at his idiosyncratic answers. I also faltered in confidence. Out of the ten categories involved, he was somewhat proficient in one of them. Christopher’s responses were often “in the ballpark,” but he lacked the ability to reason effectively.
Here are some of the (modified) questions and his answers:
- James bought a pair of socks and gloves. What do we call sets of two things? “2 socks” (repetition of question) “2 gloves”
- Melanie wrote her science report again. Why? “Because she wanted to return it.”
- What do you see after you pop a balloon? “A lot of red paper. It’s everywhere.”
- Kim’s mom is buying new shoes for her. Kim wants shoes with Velcro. Her mom wants to buy shoes with shoelaces. What is the problem? “Everything will not be peaceful.” Two solutions? “She’ll tell her mom she wants to give them away.” (Another solution?) “She’ll ask one more time that she really wants Velcro fasteners.”
- Mom got a grocery cart in the store. What will she do now? “Use the food to cook for dinner and lunch.”
- Today is July 10. The milk container in the fridge says, “Use by July 3.” What is the problem? “They can’t use it for a year until the next July 10.”
We started with general information, the basis for problem solving. His knowledge base seems unconsolidated and is full of gaps. After one session, we took a “field trip” to the nearby post office because he was dreadfully confused about all sorts of mail questions, including how you could get a package to someone who lived far away (let me tell you, walking there is not the solution!). Christopher was disappointed that he couldn’t see the “factory” when we arrived at the post office….
I told myself, “Baby steps. Baby steps.” Indeed, after a week of intensive work on general information and practicing wh-questions, Christopher showed strong improvement. We used highlighting tape, practiced new vocabulary related to reading comprehension, role-played answers, used talk-to-text for writing on his favorite topic, and supplied powerful motivators. The 1-to-1 instruction and the systematic nature of our work also helped. As you can see from his responses above, Christopher is in the game but just not in position. I look forward to the next month’s progress and will keep you posted!