The participation of autistic pupils in decision-making about their school experiences: A case study of one school

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Chantelle Zilli
Submitted: June 2018


Beginning reading skills are often taught through phonics-based methods. Learning to read is a cognitively demanding task, and for those children who struggle, research has shown that individualised interventions can facilitate the development of reading skills. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics as a teaching method with typically developing children, less research has evaluated this method with children who are educated in special school settings. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate research over the past 43 years into the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children who are educated in special school settings. The findings suggested that phonics teaching leads to improvements in phonics skills. However, improvements in phonics skills often did not generalise to whole word reading skills.

The empirical paper evaluated the computerised phonics-based intervention Headsprout Early Reading with eight pupils aged 7 to 19 years, educated in a special school for children and young people who experience severe learning difficulties. The intervention took place over 21 weeks. Three learning conditions were employed, such that four participants completed Headsprout as it was designed with typically developing students, two participants did not complete negation activities, and two non-verbal participants completed Headsprout minus speaking activities. Results indicated that all of the participants improved in initial sound fluency, non-word reading, and word recognition. Participants in the no-negation condition showed improvements despite not completing these activities. The findings suggest that individualised phonics-based reading interventions can be used to support development of early reading skills for students are educated in special school settings.

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