Autism Spectrum Disorder affects individuals differently, affecting a range of skills, from fine motor and language to social interaction and focus. As such, writing tasks can be particularly challenging for students with ASD.
Yet, with the appropriate support and planning, students with autism are able to become fluent and successful writers.
In order to help ASD students become confident writers, teachers need to ensure that they use the most effective strategies available to help motivate and support students with autism throughout all the stages of the writing process.
Preparing To Write
Providing plenty of time to brainstorm ideas and plan for writing is essential for students with autism.
It can be especially effective to allow students to plan their ideas in a visual format, such as through pictures.
Another useful strategy is to use word banks to help prompt ideas and use a traditional outline or story template to support the student’s sequencing or structure. Rather than brainstorming ideas with full sentences, teachers should encourage students to use single words instead to outline their ideas.
Supporting The Act Of Writing
Teachers should have a range of scaffolds in place to support students with their writing, such as using word banks to stimulate writing, as well as providing concrete writing examples for students to refer to. Providing sentence starters can also help students to overcome potential writer’s block.
“Consider using pictures as prompts. Ask the student to talk to you about the pictures to help get them started with the writing,” explains Raymond Fields, a teacher at Eliteassignmenthelp and Oxessays. “It’s really important to allow autistic students to have the opportunity to orally rehearse their sentences and help organize and compose their writing. You can also try using graphic organizers.”
Providing opportunities for students to write content about their Special Interest Areas (SIAs) has also been found to help them be more motivated and engaged when writing. As a result, their vocabulary, word order and syntax are often much improved.
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Strategies To Support The Drafting Process
The very act of writing can be extremely physically challenging for students with autism, resulting in shorter pieces of writing and often illegible handwriting. Teachers can support pupils to overcome these physical challenges by using technology.
In this way, students are able to focus on the content of their writing, rather than the physical challenges of writing itself.
There are a range of technologies available to support students with autism. For example, tape recording, using a Dictaphone and a scribe, keyboarding and using speech recognition software. Online writing tools can also be used to help students improve their writing, such as Simplegrad, Paper Fellows, Big Assignments and State Of Writing.
“It’s important to make sure that students remain engaged and motivated in the act of writing. It is particularly helpful to break the task down into small, achievable goals. Providing students with movement breaks also aids their focus.
Strategies To Promote Editing
In order to help motivate and encourage students to edit and rewrite their work, each writing task should be given a clear purpose and this should be shared with the students. Reducing the length of the writing task, so that students are able to complete the work and produce work which can be shared is particularly important.
Providing students with clear checklists can be extremely helpful when editing, as is the act of editing with a partner. Make sure that the completed work is then shared publicly. For example, it can be hung on display in the classroom, included in a class book, published on the website or even submitted for publication.
Supporting Low-Functioning Students
For students on the low-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, writing tasks can be even more stressful and may lead to more aggressive and socially unacceptable forms of behavior. Adapt writing activities so that they are more accessible and in line with each individual pupil’s Individualized Education Plan
Aim to use communication boards, where students can point to the relevant visual to communicate their thoughts. Give them writing tasks which are based in real-world skills and activities, such as matching food items to labels, creating shopping lists or listing ingredients needed for a meal.
This article was featured in Issue 106 – Maintaining a Healthy Balance With ASD