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Improving Handwriting in Students with Autism

by Louise W. Rice

Children with high-functioning autism will experience many academic and social challenges at school. Guidance and support from teachers will be needed to help the autistic persuasive essay writer achieve educational success. Handwriting is one area that may require special assistance. When teaching handwriting skills to a child with autism, there are many classroom aids as well as a variety of helpful tips that should be incorporated into the daily lesson plan.

Fine Motor Skills Exercises and Therapy Ideas for Autism

A child with autism will benefit greatly by engaging in fine motor skills exercises designed to strengthen hand and finger muscles. Build these types of activities into the school day. Do the following regularly, and improvements in fine motor skills will be attained:

  • Clay modeling
  • Finger-painting
  • Squeezing small balls or hand exercisers
  • Lacing beads
  • Weaving and tying activities
  • Sorting small items into slots
  • Winding up toys
  • Piano play
  • Finger puppet play
  • Pouring activities (water, sand, etc.)

Helpful Special Needs Writing Aids

There are many aids available to help children learn how to write consistently. One very important tool to have in the classroom is a slanted writing desk or another surface. This will help the autistic child who has difficulty maintaining a handwriting position for long periods of time.

Kids with autism may also struggle with pencil holding and pressure, grasping and pressing down too tightly and causing the writing utensil to break frequently, or gripping the pencil too loosely so that it wobbles. In either case, the student may benefit from weighted pencils, pencil grips, pencils with attached supportive elastic wristbands, and special no-slip paper.

Adjust Classroom Handwriting Requirements for Autistic Students

If a classroom writing assignment is long, a teacher may want to break it up into smaller sessions for the child with autism. Even better, have the child use a computer to type out larger writing projects instead of requiring him to write several pages.

Author and Clinical Psychologist Tony Attwood stated in The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome [Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007, pp. 263-5] that he believes handwriting is becoming an obsolete skill. Therefore, teaching typing and computer skills to students with autism may be a lesson that needs just as much attention as manual handwriting, if not more.

Handwriting is an integral part of education for all children. For kids with autism, hefty writing requirements in the classroom can be a source of frustration and can seriously impact their abilities to do well. Combining the techniques and tools described above with more lenient handwriting requirements may ultimately create a more positive educational experience for the child with autism.

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