Teaching Writing to Students with Autism
Although autism itself is not a learning disability, it can and does affect how children learn. Plus, it is not unusual for children and teens on the spectrum to have concurrent learning differences such as dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dyslexia.
Written expression, for students with autism, can be difficult both because of organizational deficits and motor or coordination difficulties. If you are homeschooling a child with autism, and writing problems are one of your concerns, you may be curious about autism writing strategies that could help.
Writing and Autism
The process of teaching an autistic child to write can be slow and tedious. Have you noticed any of the following with your child or teen who has autism?
- Sloppy handwriting
- Sensory issues with writing implements
- Difficulty translating what he/she wants to say into written language
- Difficulty planning out how to write a long-form composition
- Inability to write for an audience
- Hyper-focus on the details of writing without regard to the larger goal picture
If so, you may be wondering how to teach an autistic child to write. The key is to use instruction that capitalizes on your homeschooler’s strengths while minimizing his or her weaknesses.
Writing Strategies for Students with Autism
Some of the steps you can take to improve the writing experiences of your student with autism include:
- Use visual planners, such as graphic organizers, to help students map out what they want to say.
- When handwriting is necessary, use pencil grips that minimize sensory issues.
- Allow students to use assistive technology such as word processors with auditory feedback, word prediction software, and word banks.
- Use small simple steps to teach the writing process.
- Model proper writing techniques.
- Incorporate vocabulary instruction into your reading and writing curriculum.
Autism Writing Tools
Focusing on improving fine motor skills can help boost an autistic child’s handwriting performance. Writing aids can actually be more than helpful–they can be fun! Plus, they build coordination–a skill that is useful for much more than writing. Some popular writing tools for autism include:
- Grip Aids – for children who struggle with proper pencil grip, an ergonomic grip aid can be both a temporary fix and a training implement. These tools even come in bright colors and fun designs to encourage their use.
- Weighted Pens/Pencils – if you’ve discovered that your child lacks the muscle control necessary to write successfully, a weighted pen or pencil can give the sensory feedback necessary to improve their efforts.
- Hand & Wrist Weights – although with a similar intention to a weighted pencil, hand weights provide extra sensory input to the whole hand or wrist, which brings security to some autistic children when writing.
- Tactile Paper – simply telling your homeschooler with autism to stay within the lines when writing can be a futile effort. Specially designed paper with raised top and bottom lines give students an additional sensory cue that proves exceptionally helpful for some.
How Time4Learning Curriculum Helps Students with Autism
Using an interactive online environment, the Time4Learning educational learning system builds and reinforces writing skills. It can be used as core writing curriculum or a supplement to other tools. Many families homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum use Time4Learning. Here’s why:
- Lessons and activities are multisensory and work with a variety of learning styles.
- The impersonal nature of computer learning is preferable to many on the autism spectrum.
- It builds on existing skills, not just in writing, but in reading, math, science, and social studies as well.
- It allows for the placement of different grade levels in different subjects.
- New learning opportunities are introduced in a safe, supportive environment.
- Learning is balanced with fun!
Choose your subject and grade level to experience demos of Time4Learning’s interactive curriculum.
Have other questions about homeschooling a child with autism? You may find the following pages helpful.