One population with challenges in learning to read is children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of using Systematic and Engaging Early Literacy (SEEL) intervention activities to improve phonological awareness and phonics skills with three children with ASD. Previous studies have looked at the effectiveness of using SEEL with other young children with diverse backgrounds; however, this is the first study to focus on using SEEL intervention with children with ASD. The study used a single-subject, multiple-baseline-across-behaviors design to compare performance on phonic patterns before and after intervention. Three young, male students who had a diagnosis on the autism spectrum and delays in literacy skills participated in the study. A number of different, yet comparable literacy targets were selected for each of the participants and assessment tasks were created to probe the participants’ ability to demonstrate reading and phonological awareness for these target patterns. Baseline assessment data were collected prior to participants receiving individualized intervention, and performance on each task was monitored using the same assessment each subsequent session. SEEL instruction focusing on one target at a time was used to teach participants to read or decode the target words and give appropriate responses to phonological awareness tasks. Intervention sessions were held once a week and lasted approximately 30-45 minutes. Each SEEL lesson was adapted to meet the needs of the individual child; however, all sessions contained SEEL principles of contextualized play, frequent auditory and visual exposures to the targets, explicit teaching using the target words, and engaged and reciprocal participation with opportunities to create original oral and written phrases. An analysis of the results show marked improvement in performance with the selected targets for two of the participants. This study provides further insight into the efficacy of using SEEL with different populations in need of early literacy intervention, especially those with multiple behavioral and skill-based variables to consider. It also discusses some additional factors and challenges to consider for future research in using SEEL with children with ASD.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





Systematic and Engaging Early Literacy Intervention, autism spectrum disorders, reading, single-subject design, phonological awareness, phonics