I'm asking on behalf of friends of mine who have a daughter who is diagnosed with "high functioning" autism. Let's call her Jane.
Jane went to a regular primary school but couldn't learn in this rather chaotic environment and had to repeat her first grade. She changed schools and has attended a Montessori School for 2 years now. The concept of this type of school is that students are never forced to learn, but encouraged instead. They learn in mixed classes so the fast learners can learn with the older students and the slow learners can repeat lessons until they understand them.
Jane is a good and fast learner, but until now she doesn't see any use in practicing reading. She is 9 years old and attending the third grade. If her reading skills don't improve until the end of this school year, she gets transferred to a special-needs school. We want to prevent this at all costs.
Jane knows the alphabet and is capable of reading texts if she's forced to do so ("You can only have a cookie if you read the name on the cookie box"). She reads very slowly and at the skill level of a first grader. Since her school never forces her to do anything, she doesn't get regular practice at school.
Ways we tried to encourage her that failed:
General explanations like "You need to read the street signs" or "You cannot order food if you cannot read the menu"
Any kind of threat like "You won't be able to learn because the interesting stuff is written in books" or "People will think you are stupid". (Of course, we don't tell her that constantly. It's just one thing we tried once and her reply was basically "I don't care what other people think about me, so I don't need to read.")
If we try to force her to read, she reacts petulant and stubborn. It generally goes like this: we are playing a board game together and tell her "To know what to do next, you need to read this sentence on the game board". She becomes petulant, walks away and prefers playing alone with her toys.
Age-appropriate books for reading practices. She generally finds them boring and childish and never sticks with them.
Read a good night story to mommy. Again, she becomes petulant and aggravated and is kept from sleep for a long time.
Interactive fairytales on a tablet computer. Since the tales are read out loud, there is no need for her to read the text. If the tales are not read out, she has no interest at all in it.
Transferring her back to a regular primary school is not an option.
My question is: How can I be encouraging Jane to practice her reading, even if she doesn't recognize any use in it?