Does your child with ASD always want you to read the same books over and over again? If so, go ahead and keep reading them. You may think that this is a perseveration that you have to stop, but the truth is that young children benefit from repeated readings of children’s literature. Below are the benefits of repeated readings:
1. Hearing a book over and over again builds language skills for children with ASD. As the children get more and more familiar with the book, the language becomes easier and easier to understand. The first time a book is read to a child with autism, the language may be very difficult to understand. But each time the book is read the child has to work less and less at understanding the language. When parents read aloud to their children, it positively impacts the child’s language development. For children with ASD it is very important for them to hear the way sentences are formed. With this repeated exposure to books, many kids begin to recite the books on their own using complete sentences. This will enhance their ability to use language to generate sentences in the future.
2. Hearing a book over and over again builds reading comprehension skills for children with ASD. Because children with ASD have communication impairments, reading comprehension can be extremely difficult. By exposing the children to repeated readings, the children have many opportunities to gradually increase their comprehension of the text. During repeated readings, you can begin by asking your child simple questions such as, “What’s this?” or “Where is the cat?” With each additional reading of the book you can make your questions more complex moving to literal questions that assess the child’s comprehension (ex. “What did they eat for dinner?”), and then to inferential questions (ex. “Why was the boy crying?”).
3. If a child wants to read the same book over and over again, this is showing pleasure in engaging in literacy activities. Why would we want to stop this???? Reading should be enjoyable for children. Go ahead and re-read the books your child loves as often as you’d like!
4. Reading the same books over and over again provides multiple opportunities to build your child’s social interaction and communication skills. You can use your child’s motivation to address specific objectives during the shared book reading activities. You can work on having your child use words or complete sentences to request books. You can teach your child to make a choice of which book to read. You can teach your child to make initiations during the book sharing. You can teach your child to invite a sibling to join the book sharing activity. This list goes on and on. Anytime a child has a natural motivation for something, it should be nurtured and utilized for improving social, communication, and academic skills.
The question you may be asking is, “Does this mean I shouldn’t try to expose my child to new books?” The answer is: Of course not! The only way a book can become a favorite is by initial and repeated exposure. If your child is resistant to new books, give your child a choice from two or three new books trying to match the choices to your child’s interests. You should also read the new book between two favorites: Read a favorite book, a new book, and then another favorite book. It may take several exposures for a new book to become a favorite. You can line the books up so the child can see that the favorite books will still be read. While not every book will become a favorite, I use the same rule I use for new foods: Read the book seven times to the child. If it’s not a favorite by then, move on to another book.