Christopher, my ASD (Adorable Sweet Dude) nephew, continues to improve his writing skills. When we started the writing process, I did all the work, despite our use of topics relating to his narrow range of interests. Christopher did not know how to start, how to keep going, and how to finish. He didn’t have a clue and became agitated unless I intervened. No surprises there. Here are some strategies which have helped him become a much more proficient and independent writer.
- Graphic organizers are a powerful support for kids with writing struggles. I’ve created them using Google docs, primarily for its talk-to-text feature but also the ease of sharing with parents and other teachers. Why are they so helpful? They provide the organization, the skeleton, of the writing process. With enough practice on each type of organizer, kids assimilate this way of thinking. Christopher has not yet started to branch off from this “formulaic” writing, but I have no doubt that he will.
- Talk-to-text (under Tools) requires consistent practice for developing proficiency. Kids tend to speak too loudly, quickly, and without normal intonation. Christopher and I do enjoy the odd phrases which pop up as he dictates his work, such as ‘Sea butterflies power’ for ‘These activities are….” A side benefit of practicing with this tool is that Christopher has learned to articulate more clearly and monitor his volume. (To use this effectively at school, he can’t sit there screaming at the computer!) This tool also provides practice in rehearsing a complete sentence before writing, which has led my nephew to edit his ideas. Cool. He has also learned to speak (and read) in different “gears,” so that he doesn’t fly through texts with no understanding. Third gear is TOO fast! A side note: He has learned such control that he can tease me with word-by-word phrasing, an impossibility when we first started.
- Keyboarding is vital for students in today’s world. To please me, Christopher now places both hands across the keys as he continues to type with one finger. He needs to learn keyboarding, but with all his other deficits, I admit this is low on the list right now. We can’t address everything at once, or he’d be overwhelmed.
Here’s a sample graphic organizer that Christopher just used. He completed it with about 20% support from me.
As he wrote his story from this organizer, Christopher enjoyed checking off the boxes. By now, he is also about 80% independent at the writing stage. Most of my intervention is keeping him on task and pointing out the descriptive words in his organizer. I showed him how boring it is to start every sentence the same way, so it is now an internalized “rule” for him to consider alternate styles. He has become quite adept at varying sentence structure because he “hates to write boring sentences.” What a terrific, hard-working kiddo!