It goes without saying that the ability to write is vital to everyday life. But for students with autism, this comes as a significant challenge because writing requires muscle strength, hand and sensory coordination, fine motor skills, and language skills. However, this only means it’s necessary for us to get our creative juices flowing and think up ways that work for them.
Problems with communication and attention, and motor skill deficits are challenges that can easily be met if you have the right techniques up your sleeve. And of course, you can’t expect things to look up overnight so you need to have lots of patience, too!
How Do I Teach My Students with Autism to Write?
Teaching a student with autism how to write can be a slow and tedious process. But as a teacher, parent, or caregiver, we can’t expect them to know how to interact with others without instruction. – much more to write without basic training.
Here are five strategies you can use to teach them how to write:
Start with pre-writing strategies
I found that it’s best to start by teaching pre-writing and brainstorming strategies that appeal to their strengths and style of learning (given that you’ve already evaluated these aspects).
A lot of autistic kids tend to learn better visually, so I recommend you provide them with the opportunity to brainstorm ideas by way of pictures and drawings. For example, you can teach them to place numbers on their drawings to specify when they’ll write about a particular aspect of a picture. But because these kids often struggle with their fine motor skills, I suggest you have them use a word processor on a computer or work with a transcriber.
I’ve rounded up a list of writing strategies that you can follow to help improve the writing experience of your student with autism
- Use of visual planners like graphic charts and organizers (very useful if you want to assist the child with mapping out their thoughts and ideas)
- Use of pencil grips for handwriting, to avoid or reduce sensory issues
- Small, simple techniques when teaching the process of writing can help
- Model proper, effective writing techniques
- Integrate effective vocabulary instructions into your writing sessions
Break down the teaching process into simple steps
Children with autism tend to learn faster if taught in small steps. Therefore, you need to carefully think about every step when teaching them how to write.
Obviously, before they are able to write a sentence, they will first have to learn how to properly hold a pencil, and how to correctly say the words they’ll write. If your student is struggling, consider slowing down your pace, make a mental rundown of your teaching process, then identify where the disconnect is. Once you figure out where the roadblock is, you and your student can go over it and practice together.
Respond to (and overcome) writer’s block
For students with autism, it can be a struggle to spontaneously write during class. As a teacher, I always have to prepare myself to respond with appropriate methods.
In this case, you can present illustrations or pictures as prompts, and then ask them leading questions about it to get them started. You can also incorporate writing examples along with the prompts. For organizing and sequencing their writing, children with autism need to be encouraged to express their ideas while recording pictures or keywords for them, along a timeline. You can then have the child read the timeline in their proper order.
If you need more tips on how do I teach my students to write, I find IHateWritingEssays to be an excellent writing help source, especially when it comes to services that can cater to my students’ unique needs.
Remember that children with autism require a sense of consistency in their daily lives, so incorporating regular, ungraded writing tasks and activities into your lectures can make the learning process less daunting.
Hand therapy can be especially beneficial to kids with autism because it builds up muscle tone, thereby improving their fine motor skills. For this, I often turn to an occupational therapist, the most qualified person to perform this type of therapy.
However, you can also incorporate hand therapy into your classroom routine. Simple things like having your student draw or paint on a paper that’s held vertically can help improve muscle tone in their wrists. Games like tug-of-war using a large rubber band are not just fun, but can also help the kids build up muscle strength in their wrists and arms. Stuff like play dough and stress balls can also help strengthen finger muscles. Just remember to let the kids start with something softer, and then proceed to increasingly hard materials if you observe an improvement in their strength.
Incorporate Vocabulary Instructions
Yes, teaching vocabulary is critical for any student. But for students with autism, this can be doubly important.
When teaching autistic children, I make sure to break down my vocabulary lessons into different categories. For instance, I teach several different ways to say “beauty”. And then, I’ll have my students practice writing sentences using the new words they’ve learned. The following day, I teach different words that mean “ugly” and have my students use the words they’ve learned in sentences.
When incorporating vocabulary instructions in your writing lessons, remember to focus on vocabulary that your students already use in their daily speech. You can then expand from there, as long as you keep the words simple at first. As always, make it a part of your classroom routine!
Hopefully, this guide has answered the question, “how do I teach my students with autism to write?”. Naturally, there will be certain challenges along the way but lucky for you, none of them can’t be solved with proper techniques and a LOT of patience and dedication on your part. Best of luck!
About the writer: Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on education-related matters, Carol enjoys travelling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries.
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