Reading Assessments for Students with ASD: a survey of summative reading assessments used in special education schools in the UK (Arnold & Reed 2016)

Journal Article   Schools have an obligation to assess the literacy skills of their students, and the provision of reading instruction to students includes the ability to measure progress in this area. However, the design of reading tests includes the ability not only to read words, but also the ability to verbalise them. This presents a particular challenge for practitioners working with students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who can be nonverbal in many cases. How this issue is generally overcome is currently unknown. A survey was developed, in the form of an online multiple-choice questionnaire, in order to determine which tests are currently being used in the UK to assess the reading abilities of nonverbal students, and to examine the opinions of the education practitioners who use them, in relation to their suitability. Using the schools web directory, e-mail invitations were sent to 1,050 special educational needs schools across the UK, and 70 schools responded to the invitation. Respondents suggested that the majority of practitioners hold little faith in the ability of current reading assessments to provide an accurate picture of reading ability for students with ASD, and this holds particularly true for nonverbal pupils with ASD. One purpose of education assessment is to establish a baseline of students’ ability in order to plan for lifelong learning and achievement. If there is an inability on the part of schools accurately to assess the reading abilities of nonverbal students with ASD, then it would be fair to assume that this could have a negative impact on the provision of learning opportunities for this population.

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