Child with Autism and Progression of Reading Ability

Senior (College 4th year) ・Psychology ・APA ・5 Sources

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disease in both adults and children that is related to impaired cognitive and motor skills. The number of people diagnosed with ASD has been on the rise over the past few decades, according to Randi, Newman, and Grigorenko (2010). In 2007, for example, the number of incidences of autism in the United States was just 1.16 percent of the population, but by 2012, that figure increased to 2 percent. The percentage of people with the condition is expected to increase across the world because of hereditary factors, environmental factors, and a general improvement in the awareness of the disease.
The fact that autism is a condition affecting the development of children implies that researches have been conducted to understand how the disease affect the learning process. In particular, neuroscientists and educationists have been concerned how reading ability is affected in children with ASD. Pardo and Eberhart (2007) explain that studies have established that many children with ASD have poor reading comprehension skills despite the fact that they have word recognition abilities. This implies that a child can identify and read letters but is slow in processing meaning from the text. While in some cases, a child with autism may have difficulty in decoding words and letters while having normal comprehension skills. Thus, for teachers and parents, it may be confusing understanding the manifestation of ASD in child on the basis of reading abilities.
More so, some children without autism have dyslexia, a general reading disorder that does not interfere with intelligence. A child with the condition has difficulty reading words, letters, and symbols but has average comprehension skills. Lindgren, et al (2009) also note that some spectrums of autism are associated with hyperlexia, a condition that gives a child superior reading abilities above his or her age. In as such, it becomes imperative for research to be conducted on the reading ability of children diagnosed with Autism so that their conditions are understood by the teachers and parents. Davidson and Weismer (2014) believe that early diagnosis of ASD and knowledge of its effects on the development of a child is important. It is the only way children with the condition can be assisted through their studies and not feel disadvantaged.
Consequently, the best approach to understand the progression of reading ability in children diagnosed with ASD is to analyze the physiological mechanisms that facilitates decoding and comprehension of texts. Preliminary studies indicate that neurotransmitters play a critical role in the cognitive and motor effects caused by autism. Apparently, some breakdown or disconnection in the brain’s core inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), is the main reason people with ASD have problems with reading comprehension. For instance, Pardo and Eberhart (2007) established that children exhibiting hyperlexia abilities use both their brain’s hemisphere to optimize the phonological and visual processing simultaneously when reading. Therefore, this proposal provides a research guideline on the process of investigating the progress of reading ability in a child diagnosed with autism. While it is clear that the condition exhibits varied effects on the reading capabilities of children, it would be critical to understand the physiological issues that causes the variations.

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Literature Review

Most researches that have investigated the effects of autism on reading ability have focused on associating neurological processes and comprehension process. Some have even looked at the teaching methodologies that assist children with autism to advance their reading abilities. According to Randi, Newman, and Grigorenko (2010), individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders encounter challenges with regard to reading for understanding. In particular, the researchers note that regardless of where a child falls in the spectrum, those having the condition have demonstrated an advanced word recognition skill despite their reading comprehension being impaired severely. Thus, reading remains to be a complex process and requires the collaboration of different factors. Children having the condition need to adopt a range of cognitive abilities including inferencing, motivation, and knowledge of the topic to encounter success in reading and understanding. Further, it is crucial to acknowledge the fact that there are variations in the reading capabilities of children having autism.
A study by Davidson and Weismer (2014) revealed that many children diagnosed with ASD have high decoding skills and lower reading comprehension ability. The study employed a longitudinal approach and sample 152 participants at various intervals of the age. The first analysis was conducted when they were 21/2 years old and the last test was conducted when they were 51/2 years. the findings of the study established that 62% of the participants had high alphabet decoding abilities and lower meaning generation from texts. The research by Davidson and Weismer (2014) also found that children whom were introduced to nonverbal cognition and verbal expressions at the tender age of 21/2 years were likely to develop good reading skills when they reach the age of 51/2 years. Therefore, when children are diagnosed with ASD at an early age, it is possible to improve their reading abilities as they progress in their education.
The study by Kikuchi, et al (2013) expounds the view that children ith autims have impaired ability to perform certain visual tasks such as reading. The study the hypothesis by adopting the application of a magnetoencephalography system to help in answering the research question. K-ABC tests were equally performed to profile the children having ASD and TD. The analysis adopted the use of an unpaired t-test to reveal the reasoning capabilities of the children. Multiple linear regression analysis was equally performed to yield the test scores. The findings indicated that there is neurophysiological connection between the parietal and temporal regions in all children when performing visual tasks such as decoding texts. However, the connection process in children with ASD is different from other children. Therefore, the variations in the neural pathways make the difference in the reading abilities of children diagnosed with the condition.
Since most studies agreed that children with autism have lower comprehension skills, Randi, Newman, and Grigorenko (2010) examined how teachers can help such children improve their understanding level. After conducting a critical literature review of relevant studies, they established that, those having the condition have demonstrated an advanced word recognition skill despite their reading comprehension being impaired severely. Thus, reading remains to be a complex process and requires the collaboration of different factors. Children having the condition need to adopt a range of cognitive abilities including inferencing, motivation, and knowledge of the topic to encounter success in reading and understanding. Further, it is crucial to acknowledge the fact that there are variations in the reading capabilities of children having autism. Thus, consideration should be made to the fact that there are differences in reading abilities among children with autism. Randi, Newman, and Grigorenko (2010) believe that it is possible to improve the understanding levels of the children through special teaching approaches such as repeated reading and the use of images.
The study by William et al (2013) sought to understand the difference in brain functioning between children and adults diagnosed with autism. This study was essential in tracing the possibility of brain functioning development of deterioration from childhood to adulthood. The researchers used fMRI (functional Magnetic resonance imaging) to compare brain activities when processing language amongst the participants. The researchers identified two groups of children who participated in the study. Notably, high functioning children with autism and IQ-matched individuals were involved. A total of 15 children were incorporated into the study with a mean age of 13 years. The researchers adopted the experimental paradigm approach in conducting the study. The variables that were being used in the study included the degree of network coordination, distribution of the workloads among the member nodes and the dynamic recruitment of the regions with response to the text content. However, it is critical to acknowledge that all the identified variables were being evaluated with regard to two groups of children that were suffering from autism.

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Importance or Implications to Biological Psychology

Understanding the progression of the reading ability of children diagnosed with autism would be an important development in biological psychology. According to Pardo and Eberhart (2007), the push for inclusive education in the United States implies that teachers and parents would need to have a better understanding of the biological conditions that affect the performance of students. In the case of autism, speculations abound on the exact effect of the condition to the reading capabilities of children. While some maintain equal reading comprehension skills with the other children, others have lower abilities. Therefore, this study will help link the variations to specific brain processes that affect language skills.
More so, the fact that autism is a lifetime condition means that scientists have to find a solution to minimize its effects on people living with it. Kikuchi, et al (2013) believes that developing a cure for the disease may take long but it is possible to effectively reduce the negative outcomes such as reduced reading abilities in children. The recent advancement by scientists of identifying the specific neurotransmitters that causes slow cognitive functioning of people with ASD is a step towards helping children with reading problems. Understanding the progression of their reading abilities will be a key step towards developing interventions that will help them in their studies.
Besides, several studies have pointed to the environmental impact to the language skills of children diagnosed with autism. In as such, it would be important to examine how neurological factors intertwine with environmental conditions to affect the reading performance of a child. Pardo and Eberhart (2007) agree that while hereditary issues associated with ASD may be impossible to alter, teachers and parents can work together to optimize on the psychological impact of the condition through environmental conditioning. A poor development environment stresses a child and can easily contribute to slow progression in their reading abilities even without autism. The study will help point out some of the specific environmental factors that may trigger poor development in the reading abilities of a child diagnosed with autism.

Hypothesis Verification

The study is going to test the hypothesis that children diagnosed with autism have a better chance of improving their reading comprehension skills if interventions are introduced early in their school life.
To guide in the testing of the hypothesis, the following research questions will guide the process of conducting the study.

i) Which are the specific neurological mechanism that account for differences in reading abilities in children with ASD
ii) Which teaching interventions will help in the development of reading skills amongst children diagnosed with ASD
iii)How do the environment conditions of children diagnosed with autism contribute to their reading abilities?


The study design will adopt a case study approach. The researcher will identify ten children diagnosed with autism and conduct a longitudinal study that will analyze their reading skills progression over a period of three years. each child taking part in the study will come from a different home environment and school. Therefore, it would be possible for the researcher to person a correlation analysis on some of the variables that contribute to impaired reading skills. In the process of the analysis, the ten children will also undergo several fMRI scanning to check on their neurological functioning at different stages of their learning. The scans will enable the researcher to determine the specific neurotransmitters that play a role in reading functions.
According to Garret (2015), case studies are ideal methods for conducting research in biopsychology. They allow the researcher to examine the variables in a limited number of participants and derived well informed findings based on observations, interviews, and tests conducted on the cases. It is especially suitable for analyzing complex behavioral variables that may not be possible to study using surveys that incorporate large number of samples. More so, case studies allow for the human touch that is critical to biopsychology, especially researches involving children. The longitudinal aspect of the design would be instrumental in assessing the progression of the children’s reading skills over time. Garret (2015) notes that a one-time survey is often insufficient in collecting any information regarding the development of a participant. Spreading of the study over three years will ensure the dynamics evident in the variables are recorded and examined to offer empirical explanation to the research.
Nevertheless, a case study implies the use of a qualitative descriptive study that may be excessively subjective due to the close association of the participants and the researcher. Garret (2015) asserts that descriptive approaches use an interpretivism paradigm that allows the researcher to make subjective interpretations based on his or her observations of the subject. This is different from a positivism paradigm that anchors quantitative studies. To cut on the possibilities of the study being overly subjective, the design will observe study ethics that will validate the findings.

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The research will put in place several mechanisms to ensure the findings are valid and reliable. The sampling technique used to identify the participants will be non-purposive to ensure random selection of participants from different backgrounds. Clustered sampling will be engaged to get participants from diverse schools but of almost the same age. Also, the researcher will use scientific instruments to collect data from the participants. For instance, the same observation sheet and interview questions will be used with all the cases to guarantee uniformity and collection of reliable data.
Most importantly, the research will engage empirical data analysis methods after collections of the results. Garret (2015) notes that some studies are compromised because the researcher uses poor methods to analyze the collected data. In this case, qualitative and quantitative analysis will be used to correlate the variables identified in the study. The fMRI images will also be analyzed by experts to develop valid conclusion on the progression of each of the participants taking part in the study. Therefore, it is expected that the study will derive valid and reliable findings such that if the same process is repeated by another researcher, the same findings would be recorded. Nonetheless, it is expected that the process will yield some few errors that will also be identified in the data analysis process. However, the margin of error would be insignificant and could not affect the outcome of the study.

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Ethical Criteria

The study will ensure that all the ethical issues are observed. Since the study will involve children as participants, relevant consents will be sought from the parents/guardians of the children. The children should also give their consent to participate in the study after being told about the importance of the study. The school administrators from where the research will be carried out will also be asked for permission on time. The teachers handling the children will also give their consent to take part in the study. All the parties involved will be explained the confidentiality policy of the research. All the data collected from the participants will be treated in confidentiality. The real names of the participants will not be used nor their pictures. The published research report will use pseudo names.
The study process will also ensure the safety of the children involved. Since there would be several fMRI scans performed on the participants, the researcher will ensure that the process is handled by certified professionals in accredited medical facilities. This will ensure that no child is at risk of any harm in the process of conducting the study.
Finally, the researcher will also be ethical in the collection of secondary data from the library and online sources. All borrowed materials will be dully references in the research report to avoid copyright breaches or plagiarism.

Summary and Conclusion

In conclusion, children having autism have varied capabilities with regarding reading. The review of the selected papers provides a comprehensive insight regarding the issue of reading and children with autism. The analysis helps in understanding the progression of reading in children with autism. In general, the analysis is vital in enhancing the understanding of the topic of study. The proposed study plan will be appropriate in conducting the study and deriving valid findings. The selected case study approach that will use a longitudinal design will ensure that the researcher examines the progress of reading ability in the children diagnosed with autism. Since the children will come from different environments and will be going through diverse teaching methods, it would be possible to get answers to the research questions and test the hypothesis.

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Davidson, M. M., & Weismer, S. E. (2014). Characterization and Prediction of Early Reading Abilities in Children on the Autism Spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(4), 828–845.
Garret, B. (2015). Brain and behavior: an introduction to biological psycholpogy (4th ed). Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage
Kikuchi, M., Yoshimura, Y., Shitamichi, K., Ueno, S., Hirosawa, T., Munesue, T., … Minabe, Y. (2013). A custom magnetoencephalography device reveals brain connectivity and high reading/decoding ability in children with autism. Scientific Reports, 3, 1139.
Lindgren, K. A., Folstein, S. E., Tomblin, J. B., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2009). Language and Reading Abilities of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Specific Language Impairment and Their First-Degree Relatives. Autism Research : Official Journal of the International Society for Autism Research, 2(1), 22–38.
Pardo, C. A., & Eberhart, C. G. (2007). The neurobiology of autism. Brain Pathology, 17(4), 434-447.
Randi, J., Newman, T., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2010). Teaching Children with Autism to Read for Meaning: Challenges and Possibilities. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(7), 890–902.
Williams, D. L., Cherkassky, V. L., Mason, R. A., Keller, T. A., Minshew, N. J., & Just, M. A. (2013). Brain Function Differences in Language Processing in Children and Adults with Autism. Autism Research : Official Journal of the International Society for Autism Research, 6(4), 288–302.

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