This is for you Carol …

GirlOpeningDoor In conversation with a parent who supports her ASD child she explained that her child is a fast and efficient decoder but fails to comprehend what is being ‘read. What, if anything, could be done?

A child I taught many years ago mirrors this exactly. We will call her Claris.

Claris not only identified the words, she followed the punctuation, reading with full expression and intonation. There was no doubt that she was high functioning, with an impeccable memory. BUT – she did not understand a word of what she read. In fact she didn’t understand why I was asking her these weird questions about stuff she didn’t know anything about.

Here is what I did the following week.

Claris arrived in fine form, declaring, “It was blue yesterday, wasn’t it Jean?” (She was prone to describe a lot of happenings in terms of colour).

She noticed that the workbench was littered with object and was delighted. I allowed time to let her explore and ask questions. At this juncture I need to explain that the concept of pronouns was a sticking point. She understood that everyone (apart from her) could be called ‘you’. She became very confused, however, if I referred to her as ‘you’ – how could that be? Other people were ‘you’. So I referred to her by her name.

She watched me write a short note, which I put in front of her. It read, “Can Claris shut the door?” She read it (aloud – she read everything aloud – that was the game) and waited. I said, “Can Claris do that.” and pointed to the note. (I had deliberately left the door ajar) She frowned. I asked her to read it again, she did. I said, that’s right, can Claris do that? Puzzlement. I said, the note has the message on it – it is asking you a question. Try reading it again and see if you can do what the note is asking? I took 4 tries before she declared, “Yes, Claris can!” I said “Show me.” Puzzlement. I said, “Show me that Claris can do what the note is saying.” She read it again. “Oh, she said, and got up and closed the door.

We had a new game … we put a plastic cow in a box – a (‘walnut-half’) boat in water (a bowl of) – a hat on a doll – and so on. She loved the ‘game’.

Two weeks later she was reading Bangers and Mash. She stopped and declared, “Oh Jean, Mash will get in so much trouble!” (Mash had made a mess with his mothers lipstick).

BUT – ask her to match 3 counters to the written number 3 … Puzzlement. (but that is another story)