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Monday 1 March 2021

Guest Post: Michelle Worthington on Sensory Aspects For Children with ASD

It can be frustrating for parents to get kids engaged in reading at the best of times, but even harder for children on the spectrum.

My best tip would be don’t attempt to try and read books at bedtime. They are tired and cranky, and you might be too. Find a time during the day that works for them and run with it. Don’t feel guilty if you are not reading to them at night.

Choose sensory friendly books like The Mouse and the Egg. They have a lot of white space and the text is easy to read.

A good place to start is to look at the pictures in the book first before going back and reading the words, or reading along to the animation on YouTube. The animation itself will foster discussion and interaction and is a great way to build vocabulary.

Let them see you reading. ASD kids can be visual creatures who love to mimic others. If they see you reading, they are more likely to do the same. Talk to them about what you are reading. Find a word they might recognise. Read varied books, magazines and online articles so they can see you use reading and books in your everyday life as an adult and they will grow to understand that even though reading might be difficult now, it will be a skill they will need when they get older, so they will be more encouraged to stick with it.

Don't worry if they can't look at the pictures while you read them the story. This can sometimes be a sensory overload. Allow fidgety behaviour and if the child is unable to sit still, stand up and walk around while reading.

Let children touch the book before you start reading and let them establish a comfortable personal space. Be slow and deliberate in your movements, especially when turning the page and pointing to words. Keep your voice low and calm, limiting expression to what is needed for understanding to begin with and then adding facial expressions and repetitive head movements as you read the same book again the next day.

Reading doesn’t have to be from a book. Read the paper, read the cereal packet, read the instructions on the packet meal for dinner. Ask older siblings, grandparents or anyone who is willing to read aloud and then initiate a conversation with them. This encourages critical and creative thinking, and associates books as a valued resource to facilitate easy conversation and connection with others.

This is a process and may have to be repeated many times before they become responsive to what you are trying to achieve. Don’t give up. The reward of parent-child bonding over a picture book story is more than worth the effort.

Michelle Worthington is an international award-winning author and screen play writer. Two-time winner of the International Book Award and finalist in the USA Best Book Awards, Michelle also received a Gellett Burgess Award and a Silver Moonbeam Award for her contribution to celebrating diversity in literature. Michelle addresses mental health through literacy with her picture books.

Please visit Michelle's website at: Home (michelleworthington.com)

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