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Progression of Reading in a Child With Autism


Good reading ability is essential to a child’s education (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott and Wilkinson, 1985). According to the Education for Persons with special needs Act, every child should be educated in an inclusive environment, hence an increase in the number of children with autism in regular classrooms. Common deficits for children with autism are communication and social skills hence the need to focus on improving these deficiencies. Reading is important besides social and communication skills and could impact a person’s learning opportunities, employment, overall quality of life and living skills. In reading a sentence, one must recognize individual letters, letter groups and the whole world to understand the text’s meaning (Nation, Clark, Wrights and William). Young children learn to interpret words, understand sight words, read texts fluently and understand simple sentences (Kittel, 2013). Later, reading becomes more complicated, focusing on vocabulary expansion and grammatical concepts. Reading development in early childhood offers important pre-requisite skills that are important later on in life.

Description of the topic

Autism is a disease that affects both adults and children as it affects cognitive and motor skills. The cases of autism disease have been on the rise and are expected to increase due to genetic factors, general disease awareness and environmental factors. Autism affects children’s development, prompting researchers to study it to understand how it affects their learning process. The effect on reading ability has greatly concerned neuroscientists and educationists. Many children with autism have poor reading comprehension skills despite their good word recognition abilities (Pardo & Eberhart, 2007). This clearly shows that the child can recognize and read letters but has difficulty processing the meaning of the text. In other cases, a child with autism may have normal comprehension skills but have difficulty understanding words and letters. However, some children without autism have dyslexia, making it difficult for them to read, but their comprehension skills are average. Some spectrums of autism are associated with hyperlexia, a condition which gives the child superior reading abilities beyond their age. This necessitates research on children diagnosed with autism to understand the effect on their learning abilities. Early diagnosis of the disease is important as it helps assist the affected children through their studies and makes them not feel disadvantaged. Analyzing the physiological mechanisms that facilitate decoding and comprehension of texts is the best approach to understanding the progression of their reading ability.

Early studies have shown that motor and cognitive effects in autism are highly affected by neurotransmitters. A breakdown in the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is the leading reason people with autism have problem understanding when reading. Children with hyperlexia utilize both brain hemispheres to optimize visual and phonological processing simultaneously when reading (Pardo and Eberhart). Autism exhibits varying learning abilities in children. Therefore, the physiological issues that result from these variations should be understood. This paper will discuss the theories of autism from five articles and the ethical behaviours used by the researchers in these articles.

Article 1

The Empathizing-Systemizing theory of sex differences

This theory classifies individuals in two dimensions: empathy and systemizing. Recognition of another person’s mental state and responding to it is known as empathy, while systemizing is the ability to build a rule-based system. The E-S theory explains the sex difference in the general population. People with autism tend to have a shift towards the more masculinized brain along the E-S dimensions. The likelihood of developing autism spectrum disorder would depend on the discrepancy between E and S.

Ethical consideration

This study did not need ethical review since the data used was secondary and anonymous.

Article 2

The extreme male brain theory

This theory was used to explain the male dominance of autism disorders. Studies in animals have shown that an increase in androgen levels is linked with the development of autism disorder (Baron Cohen, 2002). Contrary to the findings, Kung et al. (2016) studies have shown no correlation between the concentration of androgen in amniotic fluid and autism disorder later in life. The link between prenatal exposure to androgen and language development has, however, been consistent (Whitehouse, Mattes, Maybery, Dissanayake et al., 2012)

Ethical considerations

The performance of amniocenteses can only be on high-risk pregnancies. Amniotic fluid sampling and the study of exposed individuals to a hormone environment are the two methods of examining concentrations.

Article 3

Theory of own mind in autism

According to this theory, self-awareness impairment can occur. In autism, there is a deficit in awareness of the psychological self or theory of own mind. This deficit makes persons with autism impaired in identifying their mental states.

Mindreading or being able to mentalize enables one to make sense of other people’s behaviour and also puts one in a situation of imagining mental states; thus, one can predict what another person might do next. This theory suggests that children that have autism or Asperger’s syndrome have a delay in the development of their theory of mind (ToM). According to the theory, these children are presumed to have a degree of mindblindness. As a result, they find other people’s behaviour confusing, unpredictable, or even terrifying.

Ethical consideration

This theory involves morally judging an individual, therefore

Article 4

The quartet theory

The hippocampal system of the brain produces attachment effects, while the orbitofrontal centre performs information appraisal. These two brain systems are integrated to process memory. In any case, if there is a disconnection or dysfunction of these systems, there will be a manifestation of similar symptoms as those seen in autism disorder. Some studies on rodents have shown that altering glutamate on its receptors has been associated with impaired social behaviour. The hippocampus is the brain region involved in learning and memory, and any disruptions to this brain system would slow learning progression.

Article 5

Theory of autism: The superior colliculus role

The primary brain stem centre is the superior colliculus, and this part of the brain is important for vertebral survival as it supports essential behaviours. This part of the brain also determines where one would pay attention and is also involved in shaping brain regions responsible for communication skills. One of the symptoms of autism is the inability to pay attention which may result from colliculus disruption. Language and social skills are lost when the colliculus function is lost, and the autism symptoms manifest. Learning progression in children with autism would be affected when colliculus function is lost, as it is essential for developing skills, helpful language, and learning.


Greenberg, D. M., Warrier, V., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). Testing the Empathizing–Systemizing theory of sex differences and the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism in half a million people. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences115(48), 12152–12157.

Whitehouse, A. J. (2016). Commentary: Are we expecting too much from the extreme male brain theory of autism? A reflection on Kung et al.(2016). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry57(12), 1463–1464.

Williams, D. (2010). Theory of own mind in autism: Evidence of a specific deficit in self-awareness? Autism14(5), 474–494.

Pehrs, C., Samson, A. C., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The quartet theory: implications for autism Spectrum disorder. Phys Life Rev13, 77-9.

Jure, R. (2022). The “Primitive Brain Dysfunction” Theory of Autism: The Superior Colliculus Role. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, p. 16.


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