I got the idea for today's activity from a book called “Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome (TRCDS)” by Patricia Logan Oelwein. The book is almost 20 years old now (it has a CD-ROM that comes with it!) but it has some really useful strategies and is thoughtful approach to building literacy skills. Even though it was written for children with Down Syndrome, most of the principles apply to students with autism as well.
The idea is that early readers need to learn how to discriminate words. For early readers all words look the same, a jumble of letters. Reaching the level of recognizing individual words, and attaching meaning to those words, opens up a lot more opportunities for becoming engaged in literacy.
To start the process, the TRCDS recommends starting with a student's name, because it is both something student's see a lot, and obviously an important word to learn. We will then have students sort between their name and distractor names. The great idea from TRCDS is to have the distractor names be blank to get started. All the student needs to do is discriminate between text and no text. This really breaks down a challenging skill into a meaningful, and almost errorless, first step.
For our adapted book, “Nemo”, we used a high interest character name rather than a student's name. T create the book, we printed out one Nemo card for each page and one blank card. We then attached one of each onto each page with velcro.
To use the book, the student goes through and matches the word Nemo onto the character Nemo on each page.
As students learn to discriminate between blank cards and text, you can use the same word as before and now add a distractor word. To make the next step even easier, use the same distractor word through out the whole book. And pick a word that starts with a different letter and does not have the same number of letters as the target word. In this case, we chose the word Bruce, another character from Finding Nemo.
Books where the same characters appear on every page are ideal for adapting books in this way. Here are 5 books for $6 or less that would be perfect!