For many children with autism writing activities can help reinforce what they have learned. The following exercises can help when our kids need extra help.
This is a pre-writing technique, ideal for children who need an introduction into what the letters look like and how to write them.
Find a bin or a tray. Pour sand or oatmeal into the bin or tray to a level of about 1/4 inch deep. You could even use grits or anything similar that you have on hand. (Of course, you would use only dry, uncooked oatmeal or grits. I know you know that, but just saying:)
Have your child make letters in the sand or oatmeal with her finger. Place pictures of each letter within her view so she can copy the letters in the sand or oatmeal.
If she needs help, you can use the hand-over-hand technique. This involves simply placing your hand over hers and moving her finger through the sand to make the letter.
As she learns the letters, you can fade the hand-over-hand assistance. Fading your assistance means gradually reducing the amount of help you are giving her until she is writing the letters entirely on her own.
Seat your child in front of a dry-erase board that is vertical (either nailed to a wall or leaning against a wall). Have her write her name, address, phone number, or any other words you think of that she can handle. Writing on a vertical surface will help to train her to hold her arm down when she writes.
You can vary this activity by having her write answers to your questions. Example: What color is the sky? What color is your shirt? How many fingers do you have? What is your mother’s name?
Another variation of this writing exercise is to have her sit on a large therapy ball as she writes. Sitting on a therapy ball provides sensory stimulation and has been shown to improve writing legibility and behavior. It also strengthens muscle tone and coordination.
You can also purchase a dry-erase board with lines already printed on it. The lines look like those that are printed on first-grade paper. I purchased one of these at Wal-Mart. If you can’t find one at Wal-Mart or Target or some other store, you could try Amazon. Last I checked, Amazon had a board with the lines on one side and a plain side for drawing.
And there are a variety of others available on Amazon.
My ruled dry-erase board was pretty small, about the size of standard writing paper, so I had him write on it at a table.
Once we got my son started with writing, pretty soon it was a matter of helping him to write legibly so people could read it.
One product that improved the quality of his writing a lot was the wipe-clean books.
My son loves to write on the wipe-clean books. I think it is safe to say that he spent hours at a time writing on these books because he liked them so much.
There are many different wipe-clean books you can buy. Some of them come with a dry-erase marker. But most of the time I was not satisfied with the quality of the dry-erase marker that came with the product. So I bought some good quality dry-erase markers for him to use.
In spite of the low-quality markers that sometimes came with the books, these wipe-clean books were a fantastic investment because of the great improvement in my son's writing.
I think he improved so much because he was motivated to try to trace over the lines. This kind of practice really made a difference.
These books are all available on Amazon. Here are a few that we have tried.
Trace and Learn Wipe Clean abc Letter Learning Fun by Make Believe Ideas Ltd. (My son's favorite, pictured above.)
Trace and Learn Wipe Clean 123 Number Learning Fun by Make Believe Ideas Ltd.
Trace, Stick and Learn Wipe Clean 123 Activity Book by Make Believe Ideas Ltd.
Let’s Get Ready for School Wipe Clean Simple Spelling by Priddy Books
Let’s Get Ready for School Wipe Clean Simple Math by Priddy Books
My son had some difficulty with writing his letters too large. One successful technique that his OT tried was blocking off the writing spaces on the paper with magic markers.
All you have to do is pick a marker (any color will do—try your child’s favorite color) and color in the spaces around the areas where you want your child to write. Leave unmarked all the spaces in between where she is to write.
Then while your child is writing her letters, encourage her to stay out of the red area (or whatever color you have used).
Pay attention to which writing activities your child likes the most and do those more often. That's what I did when I saw that my son liked the wipe-clean books so much. I just let him go to town with that activity. He ended up spending so much time on it that his writing improved a lot.
Kids (and anyone for that matter) will spend more time on what they like to do. So if you have him doing writing exercises that are fun for him, then he will practice it more. And the improvements will come.
For many children with autism writing activities can make a lot of difference in how well they master this skill. If you need more ideas, click here to find more exercises for helping your child master this skill.