Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Special Education and Literacy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Luchara Wallace

Second Advisor

Dr. Wanda Hadley

Third Advisor

Dr. Daniel Morgan


Pre-Instructional strategies, reading comprehension strategies, special education teachers, ASD


Lyon (1998) called reading “critical to a child’s overall well-being.” Given the ubiquity of text in their lives today, reading skills can help students lead productive, meaningful lives. But what about elementary student readers with ASD? Senokossoff (2016) argued that “in addition to the social and emotional difficulties that children with ASD experience, many also struggle with reading comprehension.” Research indicates that students with ASD can face deficits associated with self-regulation and sensory overload—associated with visual, hearing, and touch —and this can threaten learning and comprehension (Bogdashina, 2003). Thus, it could be argued that pre-instruction strategies focused on visual, hearing, and touch concepts may be used to prepare students for reading comprehension instruction and have a positive impact on aschievement for student readers with ASD. Founded on this consideration, this study sought to identify a connection between pre-instruction strategies and reading comprehension for students with ASD.

A multiple case study approach was applied to this qualitative study. I used interviews and observations to collect data from four special education teacher participants in four different Midwest elementary schools. Interview transcriptions, field notes, and an observation checklist comprised the data to be analyzed. Interviews made of open-ended questions sought to uncover and understand the pre-instruction and reading comprehension strategies special education teachers used with the student readers with ASD. Questions focused on visual, hearing, and touch-based strategies, which I referred to as pre-instruction strategies, Computer-Based Interventions (CBI), and reading comprehension strategies. Observations were conducted in the classroom prior to and during reading instruction and guided by an observation checklist developed following teacher interviews. Observations were designed to link strategies discussed during interviews with those used during real time classroom instruction. Each observation sought to determine if special education teachers used pre-instruction strategies to prepare their students for reading comprehension instruction as well as to observe those strategies used for reading instruction. Analysis of the data led to findings which suggest that while special education teachers tend to believe in the benefits of and make pre-instruction strategies available to students with ASD in their classrooms, they do not apply these strategies in the preparation of reading comprehension instruction. Findings also shed light on the types of reading comprehension strategies teachers use in their classrooms, which are framed through the lens of the existing studies and the What Works Clearninghouse, as well as the ways teachers implemented reading strategies, often optimizing their efficacy through strategy combinations. My study revealed significant gaps in the literature and led to recommendations encouraging future studies which examine larger populations, possibly nationwide; those which include participants who work with and instruct student readers with ASD outside of the classroom, such as parents, librarians, and museum educators; studies which include more participatory observations over a longer period of time; studies which examine pre-instruction and reading comprehension instruction strategies for middle and high school readers with ASD; and how/if special education teachers collaborate with school occupational therapists to prepare students for reading instruction.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access