Teaching Literacy Skills to Students with Autism - Reflections and Foundations - Autism Awareness

Teaching Literacy Skills to Students with Autism – Reflections and Foundations

Featuring Leslie Broun

When Leslie began working with students with autism in 1988, there was very little information available on what to teach or how to teach it, but gradually, through the 1990’s, thanks to individuals like Temple Grandin, autism became more understood and part of the educational discourse. In this webinar, Leslie will discuss her specific influences in developing teaching skills, in particular  – literacy, for students with autism. One of the most significant of these is the role of neuroscience, which we can neither ignore nor underestimate in conceptualizing instruction, e.g. how irregularities in the brains of persons with autism can affect elements of social understanding and thus, reading comprehension.

One of the most important things Leslie has learned is that when a student is involved in an academic program where he or she is meaningfully engaged using strategies that enable him/her to be successful, difficulties with behaviour and reluctance to participate are very often ameliorated.

Another element in the child’s school program and academic skill development is the parent/teacher relationship. It is critical that both the parent(s) and teacher have a mutual understanding of what will be taught and how. Mixed methodologies will not help the student so having this shared perspective will benefit all parties, especially the student.


Welcome and Introductions
Introduction – pre-skills for effective learning, approaches to teaching, visual learning – what does it really mean and why?
The mechanics of vocabulary development – determination of vocabulary, phonics vs whole word sight recognition
Reading comprehension – sentence construction, the role of neuronal development in comprehension
Digital literacy – incorporating literacy instruction with use of personal communication devices
The future: What does the student need to know going forward? – parental contributions to IEP development (commitment to studying and learning as much as possible about autism), student choices in learning (personal awareness of the implications for their learning and school experience)
Question and Answers
Closing Remarks


For more than twenty years, Leslie Broun (M. Ed) worked for the Peel District School Board as a self-contained classroom teacher, itinerant resource teacher and consultant for students who have Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities. Her primary professional focus was the development and implementation of effective and practical strategies for teaching academic skills. Leslie was also a presenter at workshops and conferences across Canada and the United States. In 2004, she was a member of a team of presenters led by Patricia Oelwein, at the Fourth Forum for the Gulf Disability Society in Saudi Arabia. With Patricia, she co-authored Literacy Skill Development for Students with Special Learning Needs.

Over the years, Leslie worked on special projects for both the Ministry of Education and the Geneva Centre for Autism and has also been an instructor in special education for the University of Western Ontario and York University.

In 2007, she was a member of the cross-ministerial ASD Reference Group that helped formulate policy for the adoption of the principles of ABA for students with ASD in Ontario schools.

Having been a member of the Council for Exceptional Children for twenty years, in 2006 Leslie received the President’s Award for excellence in teaching students with special needs. For six years she served on the Board of Directors of Autism Ontario and in 2008 received the Gerry Bloomfield Award for Outstanding Professional Service. In 2012, Leslie was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders. In reflection on her career teaching students with autism and other developmental disabilities, Leslie comments that she cannot imagine ever doing anything else. Teaching her students captured both her mind and her heart.

Watch a short excerpt from this webinar: