Teaching a special needs child is a completely different art that can get complex and demanding, needing a lot of patience. That is when one will realize that the right tools can lend you a hand. I am talking about materials and resources to target a specific skill!
I want to touch a bit on the theory of mind and its relevance to autism. Theory of mind is impaired in people with autism. One of the earliest tests for the theory of mind is the false-belief test developed by Simon Baron-Cohen and Uta Frith1. In the classic version of the test, a little girl named Sally puts a ball into a basket and goes out for a walk. While she is away, another little girl named Anne takes the ball out of the basket and puts it into a box. When Sally comes back, she wants to play with the ball. Where, the children are asked, will Sally look for the ball? ‘In the box,’ children with autism answer, unable to imagine that Sally might be operating under a false belief. Read the entire article here.
You can spend some time researching, the crux is a kid with autism diagnosis or learning disability may not comprehend merely by repetition or reading alone. They benefit greatly from auditory, visual inputs, subtitles, and books broken into categories. That is where I urge that you steer into the possibility of animated books. These are not overwhelming like movies, yet stimulating enough for such a kid to hold interest and build listening comprehension.
Listening comprehension is the precursor to reading comprehension, so it’s an important skill to develop.
What is listening comprehension?
Simply put – It is the ability to understand text, that is heard instead of reading.
I would recommend one such resource that my son benefited from is Vooks– video on books!
Vooks brings stories to life with animated illustrations, musical effects, read-along text & narrated stories. I always follow up a video with its physical copy being read to him several times, thereafter. Further, I also provide many opportunities to explore that book in his own time. These read alouds help to create a mental model of the story, thus helping in inferencing, vocabulary, and building background knowledge. All of which are key in building reading comprehension steadily.
I can surely tell from my personal experience that he benefitted not just in comprehending, however, also went ahead to make text to world connections. He enjoyed and sought those books after seeing their video illustration. It’s such a joyful feeling to see a kid heap up on academic value with an appropriate resource making the difference. Slumberkins is our favorite series in their collection– it helped my kid relate and build upon his self-regulation skills.
Highly recommend. Please check out their collection and get a 30-day free trial to see for yourself.
I want to talk about a few more sites that deliver on the alternate way to build visualization. As said earlier children with special needs struggle a lot with comprehension, working memory, focus, and attention to name just some of the pertinent issues.
Sites that bring a book to life serve as a good resource to benefit in terms of repetition, engagement and visualizing the text to construct a mental model. Another one that is famous but does not get as much credit is Scholastic picture books on book flix.
www.scholastic.com › bookflix
They cater to kids from K-3 and have a rich collection. Each video comes with a read-along book paired up on a similar theme. Alongside are some comprehension activities, geared more for neurotypical children.
However, be aware their lists are not frequently refreshed, which means you will find a new book/video once a month or even longer. Also until you click the video, you would not know the average length of the video. Some of them are thirty minutes long, some others from 20-30 minutes. Personally, I don’t do such long screen times/per sitting so watch out for your preferences.
Next up is Hoopla digital. (https://www.hoopladigital.com/)
Make sure you travel this route, Movies–>Children’s–>Picture Books On Video
You will find both the movie and the read-along version, I recommend the former. Also, note that they have limits on the borrows, which get auto returned in three days. As a nice treat, you will find lots of holiday movies, and other themed movies for kids that you could use for special occasions. Check out the super cute “The snowman” movie based on the wordless book.
These are tested resources that deliver on the background knowledge accumulation, building up listening comprehension skills without making it look like a chore. Best fits the promise of “reach them where they are!”. Here is another protip– please check via your local library logins, most probably you will have their access for “free”. Enjoy! Please follow up with reading the book several times after watching that video and stay put on the journey. It certainly makes a difference.