5 Ways to Teach Writing to Students with Autism
Autism, depending on its severity level, can and does affect how children learn. Although it is not a learning disorder, research suggests that students with autism experience challenges in several learning processes such as writing.
Learning writing is challenging for students on the autism spectrum because it requires motor planning, attention, coordination, muscle strength, organization, language skills, and sensory skills. Therefore, teachers must use the most effective ways to motivate and help autistic students learn all stages of writing including handwriting and composition.
Writing issues for students with autism
When teaching students with autism, you’ll notice the following problems when they are writing:
- Sensory issues: they may not be able to hold a pencil
- Sloppy handwriting
- More focus on what is being written instead of the goal of writing
- Difficulty putting their thoughts on paper
- Difficulty planning a long-form composition
Best strategies for teaching writing to students with autism
You ought to prepare autistic students to write by using strategies that encourage them to learn. Each strategy you choose to use should capitalize on the students’ strengths and minimize their weaknesses. If you have been looking for a better way to help a student with autism to master better writing skills, here are some of the strategies you can utilize.
1. Build basic skills
Help students with autism to build basic skills that will make it easy for them to write such as:
- Holding a pencil the correct way. You can teach this from as early as four years. In case the child has sensory issues, have them use a weighted pencil to improve muscle control.
- Performing squeezing exercises using objects such as play-dough or stress balls to build finger and muscle strength.
- Incorporating art projects using materials such as crayons and chalk to build fine motor skills. Do not pressure the child to perform during these projects.
- Having students draw on vertical surfaces to strengthen the wrist muscles needed for writing.
- Using specially designed paper, such as tactile paper with raised top and bottom lines, to add sensory cues to writing material and help students stay in line.
- Asking the students to copy shapes and letters.
- Breaking down the writing process – teach the writing process in small steps that are easy to comprehend.
2. Help students deal with writer’s block
It might be difficult for some students on the spectrum to generate ideas and write them down. You can help them deal with writer’s block by showing them pictures and asking leading questions or providing concrete examples of written material.
Ask each student to talk about their ideas and record keywords or pictures for them. Once you show them the recorded keywords and pictures, you’ll help them organize and sequence their ideas. Also, encourage them to ask for assistance from reliable sources. For instance, IHateWritingEssays.com paper reviews can help to choose reliable writers who can help.
3. Teach vocabulary
Help each student expand the vocabulary that he/she uses every day by teaching him/her several ways to say a word, for instance, “happy,” and use it in a sentence. This will help him/her learn how to express thoughts in different ways.
4. Show students concrete examples
Examples of simple material created by professionals can help students with autism understand writing better. The content can be written and accompanied by pictures to aid better learning since most autistic children are visual learners. Ensure that you do not overwhelm them with long verbal explanations.
5. Offer support during the drafting process
Students with autism have difficulties in organizing ideas; therefore, the drafting process can be quite challenging for them. You can help them out by starting sentences for them occasionally and having them finish the sentences.
During the drafting process, you can have students set goals such as the length they want to write. Also, make it easier for them to achieve these goals by providing positive reinforcement such as stickers (to help them express themselves better) and participation points to motivate them to reach their goals.
Teaching Writing to Students with Autism
Since most students with autism struggle with fine motor skills, it helps to have them use assistive technology such as word processors. This way, they will concentrate more on what they want to say instead of how they are writing it. Assistive technology that has word prediction software proves to be all the more useful in writing.
When teaching writing to students with autism, it helps to be sensitive to their individual needs. Make writing fun by taking care of the particular sensory issues that might cause a meltdown for each student. For instance, if some students have trouble sitting for extended periods, alternate sitting and standing for them.