How We Taught Our Child with Autism to Write

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I was thinking about how we taught our daughter to use a pencil and honestly, I cannot take the credit. This was primarily done with the help of an occupational therapist but I do remember some things that might be helpful to you.
Please note that I am not a therapist and have no official training. You should consult with your doctor and/or therapist for specialized recommendations. I am just sharing things that we found helpful.
tips for teaching an autistic child to write

Hand Therapy to Build Muscle Tone

Our daughter had weak muscle tone in her hands. The therapist gave us a special pencil grip that would slide on and help Lira put her fingers in the right place but we also had to find ways to build her stamina.
Vertical Surfaces ~ To build muscle tone, we had her paint with water on a fence. The motion of bending her wrist up and down was helpful. We also had her use an art easel and would pin paper to the wall for her to color. Vertical surfaces were important.
Squeezing ~ Playdough and stress balls helped build the muscles in her fingers. Using playdough was actually not easy so we had to start with the softer kind and work our way up. Rolling pins were helpful too.
Stretchy Bands ~ Our therapist gave us a piece of stretchy rubber (read: BIG but thin rubber band) to place tug-of-war games. The tension strengthened her arms and wrists.

Activities to Encourage Writing

Very early in our homeschooling journey, I learned that I had to think outside the box. I gave up trying to teach penmanship and just wanted her to write… anything… that I asked her to write. So, I had to get very creative with our school lessons.
Tag Team ~ We would take turns. I write for a little while and then she writes for a little while.
Change Mediums ~ Instead of using pencils and worksheets, I tried to come up with as many different ways I could get her to write… without making her write. We used finger paint in zip-top bags, shaving cream in zip-top bags and on table tops, sidewalk chalk, paint, dry erase markers, crayons, sand… whatever I could think of.
Oral Lessons ~ Some days, we would just keep our lessons oral because it just is not worth a fight. Seriously… what would she learn if I pushed so hard there was a tantrum and tears?
Change Location ~ I did not keep school restricted to the table. We would have school outside, on the living room floor, in her bed, on the couch… A clip board is a wonderful thing. Lap desks are awesome too.

Be Flexible

Your child is unique and cannot be fit into a cookie-cutter. Make sure that the way you approach any therapy reflects the individual needs your child has. Each day will be different. Roll with it.

What tips do you have for teaching a child with special needs to write?

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  1. Delilah DelPrior says:

    Crying still…My 9 y/o daughter had OT last summer and well I bought every grip “Therapy Shoppe” has. Fast forward to today, she has not been seen or evaluated by anyone. We are HS for exactly 2 years this month, and she still bangs her hands after a short amount of time of print, we like handwriting without tears, but MY tears are still there! Sigh, Much money has gone into curriculum NOT meant for us, I am broke and overwhelmed :( I plan on speaking to my LEAH HS leader, she has the heart and compassion for my DD. :) With that, I stumbled upon your website, and I have been SUPER blessed by you and your family! :)
    Thank you, Thank you! Please keep our journey in prayer! Good news is that she did learn how to read and write once I pulled her out, so progress has been made. God Bless,

    • Dee, It is my privilege to pray for you and your family as you travel this stressful path. My prayer is that God would give you the courage to try new things, the compassion to remain calm during tantrums, the peace to know that God is in control, and the wisdom to know what is best for your child. {{HUGS}} I know how difficult it can be but God has a plan and He is not finished with you or your daughter yet.

  2. We struggled with this for several years then I gave up.Best thing I ever did.We allowed our aspie to use the computer to keyboard his answers and this took away the majority of the meltdowns. He started using the keyboard at a very young age and soon became very proficient with it. When his brother was diagnosed with PPD-NOS, I went with keyboarding again. I have taught both to sign their names in cursive but otherwise don’t insist on much in the way of them having to hand write anything.If they go to college,they will be able to use a laptop for any writing.

  3. I meant PDD- NOS. Sorry for the typo.

  4. Her A.B.A trained her to hold the pencil, started with finger paints play dough etc, when it came time for the lines she used bendaroos on paper and had her trace above the lines. Their pencil can’t go past them. She is not fully writing but she can do lines and circles without bendaroos now.


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