Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational & Clinical Studies

First Committee Member

Thomas B. Pierce

Second Committee Member

Susan P. Miller

Third Committee Member

Joshua Baker

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Tandy

Number of Pages



Students diagnosed with autism demonstrate a deficit in communication skills, which affects their literacy skills. Federal legislation mandates that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, be taught how to read, and have access to the general education curriculum. Students with autism are being included more in the general education classroom. Prior literacy instruction for students with moderate to severe forms of disabilities has shown promising results. The whole language approach to teaching students with autism how to read has been researched extensively, particularly in the area of sight-word identification. One major limitation to this approach, however, is that students are unable to read unknown words. This greatly impacts their ability to read text that has not been explicitly taught. The purpose of this study was to determine if the Nonverbal Reading Approach (NRA) is an effective method for teaching 11-14 year old students with autism to read unknown words. Two students with autism were included in the study, and all phases of the study were conducted in a self-contained classroom in a middle-school located in the southwestern United States. Ten target words were identified using a phonics survey, and were taught using the teacher-led and the computer-assisted components of the Nonverbal Reading Approach. A multiple probe design across participants combined with an adapted alternating treatment design was used to determine the effectiveness of both components of the Nonverbal Reading Approach on unknown word reading ability. The researchers measured the percentage correct at which students were able to read unknown words using the teacher-led and computer-led approaches of the Nonverbal Reading Approach. Data were collected on student responses, on the fidelity of implementation by the teacher, and on the perceptions of teachers in regards to the method. Results indicate that the teacher-led and computer-assisted components of the NRA were effective for improving the students' unknown word identification skills. The participating teacher reported a positive attitude toward the effectiveness of the NRA for her students prior to and following the study.


Adapted alternating treatment; Autism; Autistic children – Education; Multiple probe across participants; Nonverbal reading approach; Phonics; Reading – Language experience approach; Reading – Phonetic method; Special Education


Educational Methods | Liberal Studies | Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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