Filling the Gaps. Exercises in Reading Comprehension

June 23, 2014
Robert and I spent a couple of hours on Friday and on Saturday reading two stories from The Reading Comprehension Kit for Hyperlexia and Autism, Level 2 by Phyllis Kupperman. It was published by Linguisystems. A few months ago, we read and analyzed first two stories about a girl named Brianna and her fondness for toy trains and real trains. This time we concentrated on the first independent trip along the city block by the boy named Alec.
I am aware, that the stories address experiences of children much younger than Robert, but unfortunately, at the time when his age matched he protagonists of the stories, I didn’t have this book. Thus some of the concepts those stories introduced have remained unfamiliar to Robert.
I regret not having this book earlier for another more important reason. I am not a reading specialist. I am learning as I go on, often from the additional books I encounter. (For instance, The Magic of Stories or The Power of Retelling) Kupperman’s book offers very methodical approach to reading comprehension.
The comprehension starts not with reading but with deducing what would happened in the story based on titles and illustrations. There is a lot of “priming” by having a student/child discuss some of his/her experiences as they might relate to the story they have not read yet. The teacher/parent asks questions trying to evoke future understanding of the text by placing it in the context of a child’s real life events. There are also pages devoted to clarifying meaning of some words in the story.
After reading, the student retells the story, to answers the comprehension questions, and visualizes it through drawing pictures (Robert needs a lot of help with that part mostly because of his difficulties drawing). There is also a page allowing Robert to understand which pronoun replaces which noun.
To make it all much easier to deal with, there are colored strips with phrases or full sentences that could be used.
I don’t know the nature of difficulties Robert demonstrated while trying to retrieve answers from his memory, but I know that those strips help him a lot. It is much easier to look for answers on the “Outside” as that requires choosing from responses clearly visible and already formulated. I do believe that this approach is not replacing the memory, but does clarify for Robert what is expected.
At this point, Robert is probably ready to answer some parts without the help of the strips with written replies.
Each story requires two 45 minutes session with a short break between them. I don’t spread it over a couple of days, because Robert tends to forget quickly and reviewing takes too much time.
Unfortunately, the two stories about Alec dealt with the problem of independence – walking alone where it is safe, and not going alone where it is not safe yet.
This is a problem. We live on the a very narrow, but relatively busy street. Robert doesn’t know any of his neighbors. So sadly, we cannot replicate Alec’s experiences.

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