There are two things to keep in mind when teaching an autistic children:
- Autistic children need to have the steps broken down for them.
- Autistic children need to have both auditory and visual stimulation to keep their attention.
For the steps, this may seem easier than it really is. For writing, you need to include “Touch the paper” as the first step, then down for a line, up for a line, over for a horizontal line, and so forth. It can be pretty involved, but it’s the same steps that you should be using for any pre-schooler. The result is a step by step instruction manual for writing the alphabet.
For auditory and visual stimulation, just saying the letter as it’s written has worked for my son. His preschool will say the steps as they write, but I would rather he identify the letter with the visual queue. For me, it just makes more sense.
Of course a really neat tool that could be used to teach children how to write with their fingers would be, say, an iPhone app that would give you a letter to write, tell you the steps as the letter is written in front of you, and let you trace your finger as it writes. This would be a huge SCORM module for the iPhone (if the iPhone supported Flash of course), and could help teachers evaluate preschoolers in general. Hm. Something to work on, I suppose. ^_^
For now, I find using a whiteboard easel (available at IKEA) works for my son, as he can write his name and then draw other things on it. We have also used a Magna-Doodle, crayons and paper, and finally sidewalk chalk. The medium doesn’t matter, it’s the motion and the sound that helps the autistic child learn.
So now while he’s able to write some letters, I want to help him understand that they are related and have specific sounds. This is going to be really hard, because sounding out letters is primarily auditory. Perhaps if I add some finger gestures with each sound… I’ll post what I find.
So for those of you with autistic preschoolers and were wondering how to reach them with writing, give the above a try. A huge thanks to my son’s preschool teachers for their help and insight!