Handwriting can seem like a simple skill at first glance, but there are many abilities children need to develop to improve their handwriting. Regardless of whether or not a child has autism, the following abilities tend to have a direct impact on a child’s ability to handwrite:
- (Fine) Motor skills
- Hand-eye coordination
- Language experience
- Multisensory processing
- Image recognition
These skills are used alongside one another to ensure growth in academics and interpersonal communications and are essential in learning how to write. To help your child master handwriting, the first step is to understand the hurdles.
Understanding the Challenge
Why do children with autism have trouble handwriting?
The most important step in helping your child hand-write is to first understand why handwriting is a challenge for him or her. You can narrow down why handwriting is challenging for them by paying attention to what bothers them or what’s most difficult for them to understand.
The following questions need to be asked when identifying your child’s struggles:
- Can my child move their hand properly? Is his or her muscle strength poor?
- Does my child tend to speak in phrases or repeat certain words a lot?
- Do specific textures irritate my child? (These textures can be anything from the feeling of paper itself to the powdery coating of chalk. Pay special attention to textures!)
- Does my child have a short attention span? Can they sit still for an hour without getting distracted?
After answering these questions, it should be easier to identify why your child is having trouble with handwriting. Now, we can work on finding solutions to make the learning process easier.
Make Writing Fun
One of the best ways to engage a child in handwriting is to make the activity fun or to allow for freedom of movement. Instead of repeating circles and lines on blank paper for an hour, consider teaching your child while doing the following activities.
Standing can help expel nervous energy. By standing while writing on a whiteboard, chalkboard or paper, your child can engage in calming gestures while writing such as toe tapping, arm rolling, jumping and other actions.
- Writing in Different Mediums
Some children are bothered by textures, so a great way to figure out what doesn’t bother them is to experiment with different mediums. These mediums include anything from crayons and other writing utensils to paints and clay. While not all children are sensitive to certain textures, switching up the medium can also be a creative and engaging way to keep your child invested in the learning process.
- Use Drawings
Using drawings to relate letters to images is an effective way to get your child engaged with the alphabet.
- Engaging with Technology
Investing in a tablet for your child can provide endless educational opportunities. To develop their handwriting skills, consider downloading a drawing application or an app that will help your child engage with writing letters.
What to Avoid
Forcing the child to write when they don’t want to can immediately disengage them from any activity. Taking breaks is okay, and taking turns can also help your child learn while observing.