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The Reading Comprehension Kit for Hyperlexia and Autism Level 2
Ages: 7-12   Grades: 2-7

This kit uses NINE evidence-based strategies to improve reading comprehension in children with hyperlexia and ASD: priming, accessing prior knowledge, story analysis and summary, planned redundancy, cloze sentences, phrase and sentence strips, pronoun referent practice, vocabulary training, and visualizing.


  • Derive meaning from what is read
  • Take the perspective of characters in the story
  • Comprehend the main idea
  • Comprehend three story types: realistic fiction, fantasy fiction, and narrative nonfiction
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Each of the six units in this kit contains two stories—one written at the first- to second-grade level and one written at the second- through fourth-grade level.  There are three types of stories included in the kit: 

  • Realistic Fiction—Stories depict situations and characters that may be somewhat familiar to the reader.
  • Fantasy—Stories gently introduce talking animals, and the reader is required to accept situations that are not real.
  • Narrative Nonfiction— Factual material is embedded within a fictional narrative.  The characters depict how children may record observations and organize factual information. 

Each story has an illustration on every story page, an illustrated vocabulary page, and as many as 11 learning opportunities to facilitate comprehension.  Because children with ASD often have difficulty formulating answers on their own or physically writing answers in the blanks, six of the activities include answers written on durable, reusable phrase and sentence strips (491 total strips).  The strips provide a multiple-choice format, and the physical act of picking up the strip and placing it on the worksheet helps students focus on the task.  The lesson activities are:  

  • Priming—The student discusses how the title gives an indication of the main idea of the story, matches phrase strips to questions, and talks about the story pictures.
  • Vocabulary—The student discusses background information and what the he knows about each vocabulary word and picture.
  • Definitions—The student matches words to definitions on phrase strips and expands on each definition.
  • Access prior knowledge—The student associates the story topic and events with prior experiences.
  • Read the story—The student reads the story.  Instructor prompts are included to help the student comprehend the story (e.g., point out ideas that are inferred, summarize the main idea, talk about the relevance of particular details, and reinforce story vocabulary and content).
  • Story summary—The student retells the story using sentence strips and then retells the story to someone else.
  • Basic story analysis—The student talks about the main idea, setting, characters, and plot of the story and matches phrase strips to questions.
  • Problem/Solution—The student asssociates his own experience to problems and solutions in the story and in real life and matches sentence strips to questions.
  • Higher-level story analysis—The student answers questions that may be ambiguous and learns to infer while matching phrase strips to questions.
  • Visualizing—The student draws pictures about the story.
  • Pronoun referents—The student connects pronouns to the person(s) or thing(s) they refer to in sentences from the story. 

A "Practice with Pronoun Referents" section and a Picture/Word Dictionary are also incuded in the book.


Copyright © 2010

302-page storybook; 491 perforated, heavy-duty, color-coded phrase/sentence strips; vinyl bag
  • When used as a part of a multiple strategy method, there is evidence that reading comprehension is improved by explicit vocabulary instruction, comprehension monitoring, cooperative learning, use of graphic and semantic organizers, question answering, question generation, story structure, and summarization (National Reading Panel, 2000).
  • Although deficits in reading comprehension are frequently reported among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the studies reviewed demonstrate that students with ASD can acquire reading comprehension skills (Chiang & Lin, 2007).
  • Priming, cloze sentence formats, and anaphoric cueing (pronoun referents) improved comprehension in students with ASD, though anaphoric cueing supported the greatest improvement (O'Connor & Klein, 2004).
  • Literacy interventions that target critical oral language and literacy skills have been well documented as areas of need among many students with ASD.  SLPs can draw on this information when designing and implementing transdisciplinary literacy interventions for this growing population of students whose literacy needs are currently underserved (Lanter & Watson, 2008).
  • Visual supports are believed to assist with recall and comprehension in students with ASD because many of them have strengths in visual cognitive processing (ASHA, 2006).
  • Readers with autism were able to take advantage of cues to background knowledge to activate and associate the referenced event at a general level, but they were not able to use that knowledge to interpret and remember specific information.  These results suggest that difficulties in discourse understanding that are experienced by high-functioning individuals with autism may stem from a difficulty in making use of relevant background knowledge to interpret ambiguities in language (Wahlberg & Magliano, 2004).

The Reading Comprehension Kit for Hyperlexia and Autism Level 2 incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2006). Guidelines for speech-language pathologists in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders across the life span. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from

Chiang, H., & Lin, Y. (2007). Reading comprehension instruction for students with autism spectrum disorders: A review of the literature. Focus on Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(4), 259-267.

Lanter, E., & Watson, L.R. (2008). Promoting literacy in students with ASD: The basics for the SLP. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 33-43.

National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientifi c research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from

O'Connor, I., & Klein, P. (2004). Exploration of strategies for facilitating the reading comprehension of high-functioning students with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(2), 115-127.

Wahlberg, T., & Magliano, J.P. (2004). The ability of high-functioning individuals with autism to comprehend written discourse. Discourse Processes, 38(1), 119-144.


Phyllis Kupperman


Phyllis Kupperman, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a founder and executive director of the Center for Speech and Language Disorders (CSLD), a not-for-profit agency located in Elmhurst and Chicago, Illinois.  In 1964, Phyllis received her master's degree in speech and language pathology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She has been a faculty member at colleges and universities, as well as public and private schools.  She has developed family-centered therapy programs for children throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries.  At CSLD, Phyllis has worked with many individuals from early childhood through young adulthood.  Through this work, she has gained a unique understanding of how to develop communication and learning at various ages and levels of functioning.

Phyllis has presented workshops and seminars to numerous professional organizations, school districts, and universities, including state and national conferences for the Autism Society of America and national and regional conferences for the American and Canadian Speech-Language-Hearing Associations.  Topics included autism spectrum disorders, hyperlexia, social communication, language disorders, reading, and reading comprehension.  Phyllis has published articles in journals and newsletters and has produced multimedia products for distribution through CSLD.  She is also the author of The Source for Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorders published by LinguiSystems.


Andrew began reading before he was two.  He read flashcards, books, signs, advertisements, and his father's technical journals.  His world was filled with words.  He saw them wherever he looked.  He read labels on his clothing and the nutritional information on his cereal boxes.  He read orally with great expression and, when he entered preschool, he read stories to the other children at circle time.  However, when he was asked questions about what he had read, he often had difficulty answering.  As he got older, he could recount the basic, concrete events in a story but missed inferences and references to prior knowledge.  He could not "read between the lines."  He liked to read nonfictional material and could memorize the facts, but he had trouble putting those facts into context or associating them with other information.  His teachers often said that he could decode anything, but he had trouble with reading comprehension.

Gabi was taught to read at school.  She loved to read and spell and had many favorite books, but she did not seem to derive meaning from what she read.  It was as though the act of reading was disconnected from reading comprehension in her mind.

Both Andrew and Gabi were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Andrew's precocious reading was also characterized as hyperlexia.  Difficulties with reading comprehension are common in children with these diagnoses.  Although there are effective strategies and tactics for improving reading comprehension in typically-developing children, adaptations in these techniques must be made for children with ASD and/or hyperlexia.

Evidence-Based Practice     
This kit provides stories and activities designed to address many of the reading comprehension issues for students in second through seventh grade who read at the first- through fourth-grade levels.  I evaluated each story for readability and grade level using the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scale.

The National Reading Panel (NRP) Report (2000) evaluated the efficacy of various strategies for teaching reading based on a review of the research.  The activities in this kit are adapted from the recommendations of the NRP.  Explicit vocabulary instruction, story structure, question answering, and summarization were among the evidence-based methods chosen.

Chiang and Lin (2007) reviewed the literature on reading comprehension instruction for students with ASD.  The activities in this kit are based on efficacious studies. 

O'Connor and Klein (2004) compared three methods for improving reading comprehension in students with ASD.  All three methods—priming, cloze sentence formats, and anaphoric cueing (pronoun referents)—improved comprehension, though anaphoric cueing supported the greatest improvement.  The activities in this kit are based on all three of these researched methods.


Story Types
This kit contains six units.  Each unit contains a Level One and a Level Two story.  Level One is written at the first to second-grade level.  Level Two is written at the second- through fourth-grade level.  There are three different types of stories included in this kit:

Realistic Fiction (Units 1 and 2):

  • Brianna and the Trains                     
  • A Special Trip for Alec
  • Brianna Rides the Big Train            
  • Alec's Expedition

Fantasy (Units 3 and 4):

  • Sounds in the Big Woods                
  • The Putnam Centennial Farm
  • Wondering About the Big Woods   
  • The Animal Opera

Narrative Nonfiction (Units 5 and 6):

  • Seahorses                                         
  • Spider Rock
  • Searching for Seahorses                 
  • A Trip to the Canyon

The realistic fiction stories depict situations and characters that may be somewhat familiar to the readers.  The fantasy stories gently introduce talking animals and require the reader to accept situations that are not real.  The narrative nonfiction stories introduce well-researched, factual material embedded within a fictional narrative.  The characters in the narrative nonfiction stories depict how children may record observations and organize factual information.

Planned Redundancy
Students will have many opportunities to access each of the stories.  They will review the illustrations and participate in priming activities.  Similar questions are asked before and after reading the story.  Students may read the story several times before answering the comprehension questions.  They may do the activities using sentence strips and again without them.  They may answer questions with cloze sentence prompts and again without them. 

Cloze Sentence Formats
Cloze sentence formats (open-ended sentences) are provided to help structure the responses to questions.  As a student becomes better able to respond, the cloze formats can gradually be eliminated. 

Phrase and Sentence Strips
Phrase and sentence strips are provided because students with ASD often have difficulty formulating answers on their own.  They also may have difficulty physically writing answers in the blanks because of motor-planning problems.  The strips provide a multiple-choice format.  The size of the multiple-choice field can be adjusted to the needs of the student.  I have found that the physical act of picking up the strip and placing it on the worksheet helps my students with ASD focus on the activity.  As the student learns how to answer the comprehension questions, the use of the strips can gradually be eliminated.

Pronoun Referent (Anaphora) Practice
Each story has a pronoun referent activity based on the text of the story.  Because of the importance of this skill, I have also provided additional practice sheets to help students understand pronoun referents.

Vocabulary is addressed by matching words to pictures and matching words to definitions.  Each story contains some unusual or higher-level words.  Although primers aimed at teaching decoding use simple language, children's literature and picture books often contain rich vocabulary.  In my clinical experience, children with ASD often like big words and can remember and use them quite well.

Comments at the Bottom of the Story Pages
Wahlberg and Magliano (2004) found that cueing high-functioning students with ASD to make associations with background knowledge could improve reading comprehension.  Comments can direct the students to identify the main idea, summarize the passage, and make inferences that the student may otherwise miss.  The comments provided are merely suggestions.  You may use these comments or create your own.

Each story level has two vocabulary activities.  These words and pictures, along with some of the other higher-level vocabulary words used in the stories, have been collated and alphabetized to serve as a dictionary. 

How to Use This Kit
The phrase and sentence strips are color-coded and are labeled with the story name and activity on the back for ease in sorting.

  • The Priming sentence strips are blue.
  • The Definitions sentence strips are yellow.
  • The Story Summary sentence strips are pink.
  • The Basic Story Analysis sentence strips are green.
  • The Problem/Solution sentence strips are peach.
  • The Higher-Level Story Analysis sentence strips are purple.

Further Uses of These Stories
I hope that you and your students enjoy reading the stories and looking at Margaret Warner's beautiful illustrations.

Once your students understand the stories, use the stories to discuss social relationships and Theory of Mind.  Discuss how the characters feel about each other.  Point out the use of humor.  Show how the characters respect each other's feelings.

The stories include dialogue so that students can see how conversations are structured.  Look at the dialogue and point out questions, answers, comments, informational discourse, and transition statements.  Show how the characters begin and end conversations.  Discuss how the facial expressions and body language shown in the illustrations and described in the text are coordinated with the dialogue.

The stories can be read as plays, with children taking the roles of the characters and a narrator reading the descriptions.  The students can create an Animal Opera of their own or send Alec on another expedition.  They can find out about other sea creatures or visit an aquarium to look at seahorses.

I hope that through these activities, students with ASD and hyperlexia will find joy and excitement in reading for meaning.