I was fascinated to learn about a reading program that improves brain connectivity in students with autism. Ryan was an early reader. He had a very large sight vocabulary by age 4. However, as he moved into primary grades, I was very concerned about his comprehension skills. He was a great reader, but did he truly understand what he was reading?
Unfortunately, he did not. Difficulties with comprehension were a problem for Ryan throughout his school career. That’s why I was excited to read about a program that capitalizes on the strengths of students with autism. Not only does it improve comprehension, but it establishes new connections between the areas of the brain that are involved in understanding language.
In a study of 13 children with autism who were between the ages of 8-13, students participated in 200 hours of instruction using the Visualizing and Verbalizing Program. An age-matched group of children who also had autism but did not participate in the VVP acted as the control group. Reading comprehension tests and a fMRI, tracking brain activity and connectivity, were administered as both a pre-test and a post-test, to measure results. Investigators found increased brain activation and connectivity between two of the brain’s core language areas as well as improved reading comprehension for the children in VVP. By contrast, the children in the control group showed no significant changes in either area.
I was excited about this program because it speaks to one of my favorite quotes: “If a child cannot learn in the way we teach, we must teach in a way the child can learn.” I plan to look into VVP to see about incorporating it into our school program. Who knows, maybe Ryan would still benefit from it. It’s never too late to learn!