For many children with autism writing activities can help reinforce what they have learned. The following exercises can help when our kids need extra practice.
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 dry sand or oatmeal into the bin or tray to a level of about 1/4 inch deep. You could even use dry grits or anything similar that you have on hand.
Have them make letters in the sand or oatmeal with their finger. Place pictures of each letter within their view so they can copy the letters in the sand or oatmeal.
If they need help, you can use the hand-over-hand technique. This involves simply placing your hand over theirs and moving their finger through the sand to make the letter.
As they learn the letters, you can fade the hand-over-hand assistance. Fading your assistance means gradually reducing the amount of help you are giving until they are writing the letters entirely on their own.
Seat your child in front of a large dry-erase board that is vertical (either nailed to a wall or leaning against a wall). Have them write their name, address, phone number, or any other words you think of that they can handle. Writing on a vertical surface will help to train them to hold their arm down when they write.
You can vary this activity by having them 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 the dry erase board exercise is to have them sit on a large therapy ball as they write. 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 find a therapy ball chair here.
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, but they are also available on Amazon here. One side has the lines printed on it, and the other side is plain for drawing.
And there are a variety of others available on Amazon.
While the larger dry-erase board works well with vertical writing, this smaller board is ideal for table exercises.
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 marker that came with the product. So I bought some good quality dry-erase markers for this activity. It's also a good idea to make sure the markers are non-toxic.
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 with washable markers the writing spaces on the lined paper.
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 they are to write.
Then while they are writing their letters, encourage them 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 will spend more time on what they like to do. So if you have them doing writing exercises that are fun for them, then they 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 improving writing skills..