Reading between the lines: Reading in typical and atypical development

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

1341 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis presents a series of studies investigating the reading skills of children aged 7-14 with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The first three studies systematically investigated whether there is an intimate relationship between oral language skill and both decoding and comprehension for children with ASD, as is the case for their typically developing (TD) peers. Study 1 assessed single word reading and attainment was influenced by language ability, whilst reading mechanisms were associated with ASD diagnosis. Study 2 investigated reading comprehension. Despite being able to read single words, many children with ASD and concomitant language impairments were unable to read connected text. However children with ASD who could read accurately and fluently at the sentence level did benefit from semantic coherence, but were less sensitive to syntactic coherence. Passage level reading comprehension was predicted by vocabulary knowledge; ASD status did not account for any unique variance. Study 3 explored one specific component of reading comprehension, namely the ability to make inferences. Inferencing skill aligned with language competence and participants with language impairments had an increased likelihood of a disproportionate difficulty with inferencing. For TD children, there is a relationship between reading development and the home literacy environment. Study 4 determined that child characteristics influence the HLE of children with ASD. Children with ASD and language impairment engage in shared book reading more frequently than their proficient ASD peers, however children with ASD (regardless of language phenotype) engage in shared book reading for a shorter duration than their TD peers. The thesis then transitions from how children with ASD ‘learn to read’ to whether those that can read subsequently ‘learn through reading’. Study 5 presents the first evidence that the presence of orthography during vocabulary teaching facilitates the phonological, semantic and orthographic learning of children with ASD.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Norbury, Courtenay, Supervisor
Award date1 May 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Reading

Cite this