Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 424–438 | Cite as

The Emergent Literacy Skills of Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • M. F. WesterveldEmail author
  • J. Paynter
  • D. Trembath
  • A. A. Webster
  • A. M. Hodge
  • J. Roberts
Original Paper


A high percentage of school-age students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have reading comprehension difficulties leading to academic disadvantage. These difficulties may be related to differences in children’s emergent literacy development in the preschool years. In this study, we examined the relationship between emergent literacy skills, broader cognitive and language ability, autism severity, and home literacy environment factors in 57 preschoolers with ASD. The children showed strengths in code-related emergent literacy skills such as alphabet knowledge, but significant difficulties with meaning-related emergent literacy skills. There was a significant relationship between meaning-related skills, autism severity, general oral language skills, and nonverbal cognition. Identification of these meaning-related precursors will guide the targets for early intervention to help ensure reading success for students with ASD.


ASD Emergent literacy Preschool-age 



The authors acknowledge the assistance from Dr Deborah Costley and Dr Greta Ridley. We sincerely thank the families who participated in this study for their time and commitment to the study.

Author Contributions

MW conceived of the study, initiated the grant application, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; JP participated in the design and statistical analysis of the data and helped draft the manuscript; DT participated in the design and statistical analysis of the data. AW, AH and JR participated in the design; All authors assisted with participant recruitment, participated in the interpretation of the data, provided feedback on the manuscript drafts, and read and approved the final manuscript.


The authors acknowledge the financial support of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism, established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Griffith Institute for Educational Research, School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith Health Centre, G40, Room 2.70Griffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  2. 2.Menzies Health Institute QueenslandGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  3. 3.AEIOU FoundationNathanAustralia
  4. 4.DClinNeuropsy, Child Development UnitThe Children’s Hospital at WestmeadWestmeadAustralia
  5. 5.Cooperative Research Centre for Living with AutismBrisbaneAustralia
  6. 6.Autism Centre of Excellence, Griffith Institute for Educational ResearchGriffith UniversityMount GravattAustralia
  7. 7.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  8. 8.Griffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia

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