Students with autism can have great difficulty communicating their thoughts and feelings verbally, and this can sometimes extend to their writing. In other cases, writing has been a tool for some to express themselves when they can’t do it adequately through speech.
When teaching a student who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder how to write, the process can be slow and tedious. Just as these students cannot be expected to know how to interact with their peers without instruction, they cannot be expected to write without basic instruction.
Teaching vocabulary is important for any student, but it is doubly important for a student with autism. Break vocabulary lessons down into categories. For example, teach several ways to say “happy”. Then have the student practice writing sentences using the new words. The next day teach words that mean “sad” and have the student practice these words in sentences.
When teaching vocabulary for the purpose of writing, focus on vocabulary that the student already uses in daily speech and expand from there, remembering to keep the words simple at first. Make vocabulary lessons a daily routine in your classroom.
Discussion Before Writing
When working with a student who has autism, take the time to work out a sentence verbally before having the student write. Once the student has verbalized the sentence, you may need to write it on the board to be copied by the student until he becomes better at writing his thoughts.
When working in an inclusion classroom, it may be necessary to provide individual attention to the student with autism in order to teach the skills at an appropriate level. In order to do this, organize each lesson to include a significant amount of independent writing time for the class, which will give you the time necessary to spend with the autistic student.
Defeating Writers Block
Use a role play strategy with the student in order to help the student come up with something to write about. If the topic is to write about your weekend, discuss what happened over the weekend. Start with one sentence at a time, and prompt the student to think about what happened step by step.
Break Down the Writing Process
Use small, simple steps to teach the writing process. Students need to learn what an opening paragraph is before they learn what a rough draft is. Think about each step in the writing process and back up further. For example: in order to write, a student needs to be able to hold the pencil properly, know the sounds, know how to speak the words (vocabulary) and then be able to put them on paper.
When facing difficulty teaching a student with autism to write, think through the process and figure out where the missing piece is, and start there with your instruction. Through patient repetition each day, the student will learn to write. Ensure that the student writes each day, even if the process is difficult at first.