Teachers, therapists, and families are always looking for creative ways to help individuals with autism learn and practice new skills such as composing and writing sentences and paragraphs. Some students with autism find it difficult to focus on repetitive drills under the best of circumstances, so traditional teaching methods simply do not capture and hold their attention. Let us look at some creative ways to motivate reluctant youngsters to practice writing sentences and paragraphs.
PICTURE FOR THE DAY. Although he had very good reading and writing skills for his grade level, one of my students just sat staring into space during class writing assignments. He virtually ignored the written sentence on the board, designed to prompt students to write a sentence, paragraph, or story. But when the teacher cut a picture of a hawk out of a magazine, glued it to an index card, and put it on the student’s desk, the words started flowing. Thinking he was just focusing because the prompt was close, the teacher put a picture on the board rather than on the student’s desk the next day. Once again, the student looked at the picture and wrote an entire paragraph. The young man seemed intrigued with the “picture for the day” and began making great progress in his writing skills.
INTERNET INTERACTION. In another classroom, teachers were looking for ways to help motivate a teen with autism practice his written communication skills. A group brainstorm resulted in the idea of having the youngster send an e-mail message summarizing events of each day to his grandparents, his speech therapist, and his favorite teacher from elementary school. Not only did his writing and typing skills improve, but also he was thrilled to receive return messages from other people occasionally.
REAL-LIFE. Another teacher discovered the wisdom of encouraging her students to write about real-life happenings. Many of her students with autism did not connect with writing prompts about their feelings or opinions. When she asked, “What is your favorite season?” the papers remained blank. When she asked, “What did you eat for supper last night?” the students were inspired to write sentences.
TIP FOR THE DAY. Sometimes we blame students for not trying hard, when, actually we need to make some changes.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com