Graphic Organizers and Reading Comprehension

Rebecca Michel, MA, CCC-SLP | Speech-Language Pathologist
March 6, 2018

Research has shown that children with Autism  Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulties with reading comprehension. It is difficult for them to answer literal comprehension questions such as, “Where did the character go?” and “What did the character do?” Not only is it difficult for children with ASD but also for children with Developmental Language Delay (DLD).

Graphic organizers support comprehension

In the research article “Effects of WH-Question Graphic Organizer on Reading Comprehension Skills of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders” by Keri S. Bethune and Charles L. Wood, their research focused on how a graphic organizer can help increase reading comprehension skills. They collected baseline data by providing a word bank and asking the students to sort the words into one of the following categories in a graphic organizer: Who, Where, What, and What doing?. Then, they read a short passage and answered eight WH questions using the graphic organizer as a support.

Following a period of intervention showing the students how to effectively use the graphic organizer, the researchers shared another short story and asked eight more questions. Results showed that each student was able to answer more questions correctly by using the graphic organizer. Additionally, the students were found to generalize these results into the classroom.

Graphic organizers can help all children

Graphic organizers are very beneficial for many students not only with Autism. The reading comprehension of all children can benefit from the use of graphic organizers. Graphic organizers can be used by both parents and clinicians.

Sample graphic organizer

Below is an example of a graphic organizer that can be utilized while working on reading comprehension and WH-questions. The graphic organizer can guide your child to understand what type of words to look for to answer different types of questions.

How to use a graphic organizer

  • Provide a word bank.
  • Use a prompt hierarchy (least to most: independent, verbal, gesture, and physical).
  • Complete the graphic organizer.
  • Read the passage.
  • Highlight key terms and re-read the passage.
  • Ask WH-questions.


Bethune, K.S. & Wood, C.L.  (2013). Effects of WH-question graphic organizers on reading comprehension skills of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 48, (2), 236-244.


Photo by Rebecca Michel

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