Preschool predictors of reading ability in the first year of schooling in children with ASD
Marleen F. Westerveld, Jessica Paynter, Kathryn O'Leary, David Trembath
A high percentage of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show elevated challenges in learning to read. We investigated longitudinal predictors of reading skills in 41 children diagnosed with ASD. All children completed measures of precursor literacy skills at the age of 4–5 years, including phonological awareness, letter sound knowledge, rapid automatic naming, name writing, and phonological memory (digit span), along with measures of word‐ and passage‐level reading skills in their first year of formal schooling. Nonverbal cognition and letter sound knowledge accounted for 53.4% of the variance in regular single word reading at school age, with letter sound knowledge a significant individual predictor. Overall, 18 children showed reading ability scores in the average range on a standardized test of passage‐level reading ability, whereas 23 children performed below expectations. These groups differed significantly on all precursor literacy measures (at ages 4–5), except autism symptoms based on parent report. Group membership was significantly predicted by preschool receptive vocabulary, name writing, and rapid automatic naming, with high sensitivity and specificity. These results are discussed in reference to the literature describing early literacy predictors for typically developing children, highlighting key areas for future intervention and support. Autism Res 2018, 11: 1332–1344. © 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.