Interactive reading facilitates social skills for children with autism

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The Correlation Between Interactive Reading, Writing and Improved Social Skills

Taking an interactive approach to reading with your child could improve not only their early literacy skills but also their social skills, according to a number of studies.

Researchers from the University of Washington found that interactive or dialogic reading can be an extremely effective way to help toddlers and preschoolers expand their vocabularies, distinguish sounds, understand what printed words are and get a feel for basic grammar.

Of course, it also makes reading fun, which helps children to approach the learning process with enthusiasm rather than the dread they tend to feel if they are struggling to progress with their reading.

With interactive reading, adults invite children to join in with the storytelling, thus making it a shared and social experience. For example, a parent reading a storybook to a child could ask the child to explain what is happening, and would then expand on their answers and praise their efforts.

Scientists have also discovered a link between reading fiction and improved social skills. Two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, found that individuals who often read fiction are better equipped to understand and empathize with others and see the world from their perspective.

A later study that looked at preschool-age children found similar results, with children who had more stories read to them displaying a keener theory of mind.

Interactive reading can be helpful for children with autism

Parents, teachers and therapists of children with autism often use interactive reading to facilitate interaction and social skills in a meaningful way during play dates. This method of teaching can be very effective for children with autism as it sparks their imagination and also engages them in a social activity.

When children take turns reading a storybook out loud, they are in a sense collaborating as they work towards the goal of finishing the story, while also benefitting from the structure of the book and the spontaneous nature of the activity they are engaging in.

Tips for interactive reading with your child

When using interactive reading techniques with your child should, try to avoid yes-or-no type questions like “Is the boy going to say sorry?” and instead ask open-ended ones such as “What do you think the boy should do next?”

Another interactive reading principle is to expand on your child’s answers in order to teach them. For example, if your child says something like “He go outside” you could answer with “Yes, he *is going* outside.”

Also, keep in mind that when you are reading interactively with your child, you should allow them to take the lead from time to time. Let them choose the same book you read last night if they want to, or skip ahead or go back in the story; this helps them understand the story’s structure and memorize things.

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