Top tips for helping a child with autism read

More than 67 percent of all U.S. fourth graders scored "below proficient" and are not reading at grade level, according to a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Literacy advocate and bestselling author Monica Holloway, of Cowboy & Wills [Simon & Schuster], is passionate about promoting literacy and spreading awareness for autism.

Holloway offers the following top tips for helping a child with autism to read:

  •  Keep believing. Teaching your child to read may be hard at times, but keep believing!
  •  Read aloud. Encourage your child to listen to the story, then to follow along with the text and to talk about the pictures.
  •  Re-read the same stories. Repetition may help your child to learn language.
  •  Include reading in the routine. Some children need or like to follow a routine and reading could be incorporated into the schedule of his or her day.
  • Involve the team. If you have a support team, such as educators and therapists, keep them in the loop and work together to help your child to read!
  • Read books with favorable topics. Choose books that include topics your child enjoys. If your child loves trains or dogs, incorporate those aspects of his life into the reading process.
  • Make it fun! If you combine reading with cuddling, playtime or other enjoyable activities, it links books with fun time, as well as learning.
  • Be mindful of time. If your child has a short attention span, read shorter books to start.
  • Associate words with pictures. To increase the opportunity for your child to learn words, consider labeling throughout your house to identify objects that correspond with that label, and include both the word and a picture for the designated object.

Says Holloway, "No two autism cases are the same and each child learns differently. I encourage those with children on the autism spectrum to consult their support team to determine the best plan for helping that child to read."

Monica Holloway is the bestselling author of Cowboy & Wills, a Mother's Choice Award's Gold recipient, and the critically-acclaimed author of the memoir Driving With Dead People, described by Newsweek as "unforgettable," Glamour christened "a classic," and the Washington Post deemed "irresistible." Holloway lives with her son Wills and husband Michael Price, Co-Executive Producer of The Simpsons, in California.

ABOUT COWBOY AND WILLS: Cowboy & Wills tells the story of the golden retriever puppy that changed Monica Holloway's disabled son's life by becoming his very first friend and coaxing him out into the world. Cowboy & Wills is published by Simon & Schuster. /

ABOUT AUTISM: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, autism now affects about 1 in every 88 American children. Autism is a complex condition that affects a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships.