The Autism Society Event and Education Recordings Archive

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Autism Society records most keynote and concurrent sessions at their annual conferences. You can see and hear those recordings by purchasing full online access, or individual recordings.

5461 I Hate to Write! Helping Individuals with ASD Become Happy, Successful Writers

Thursday, July 7, 2011: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
Miami 2 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
Most students with autism hate to write. Even simple writing assignments require skills in language, organization, sensory, and visual motor areas. This session will help teachers look at the writing process through the eyes of a student with autism. By focusing on the four aspects of writing that are most problematic for students with ASD, language, organization, sensory, and visual motor skills, teachers will learn new ways to help students with ASD become happy, successful writers. Content Plan:

      Poor communication between key areas of the brain has a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to write.  The writing process requires a very high level of coordination between the various parts of the brain.  In order to write, a person must activate the areas of the brain that govern motor control, language skills, sensory feedback, problem solving, imitation skills, memory, organization, and proprioception.   But the real key to success occurs when each area of the brain lets the other areas know what it is doing.  To make this happen, thousands of neural signals are sent back and forth throughout the brain.  This allows the brain to coordinate messages and work efficiently.  The brain of a person with autism appears to send far fewer of these coordinating neural messages.  The ‘parts’ are working, but they aren’t ‘talking’. The result could be compared to a group of people crowded into a room, all working intently on the same project, but never letting anyone else know what they were doing.  Inefficient and very frustrating, much like the writing process for a person with autism. 

This session, presented by a speech / language pathologist and an occupational therapist, will address the unique difficulties individuals with ASD face when they are asked to write.  Using an interactive format, the presenters will explore the organization, sensory, motor, and language challenges students experience during the writing process.  The presenters will share frustrations frequently expressed by teachers as they try to help students meet the National Common Core Academic Standards for Writing:  "He has good ideas but he can't transfer them to paper", "He can't seem to stay on topic", "He shuts down every time he picks up a pencil".  Combining best practice skills of an SLP and an OT, the presenters will offer specific, easy to use strategies to help teachers address writing challenges in the classroom. 

The SLP and OTR will use a team approach to present an engaging session including:

  • Reasons why students with autism are challenged by the writing process
  • Discussion of the multiple skill layers involved in the writing process
  • Interactive simulations from the viewpoint of both teacher and student as related to writing assignments  
  • Strategies  to help students in grades K – 12 meet the National Common Core Academic Standards

Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to:

  • Identify the specific  multiple skill areas  that are required for functional writing skills
  • Recognize why an individual with an autism spectrum disorder may be challenged in one or all of these areas
  • Learn  meaningful strategies related to the language, organization, motor and sensory processing  challenges of their students with writing challenges
  • Apply specific, best practice strategies to improve students' writing skills

Learning Objectives:

  • Increase awareness of how the writing process is affected by challenges in language, organization, sensory, and visual motor areas.
  • Increase understanding of why behavioral outbursts during writing tasks may be a function of skill deficits in language, organization, sensory, and visual motor areas.
  • Provide specific strategies for teachers to 'take and use' to help students become happy, successful writers.

Content Area: Education


Kathy Oehler, M.S., CCC-SLP
Autism Consultant
Kathy Oehler - Autism Consultant

Kathy Oehler is co-author of the book I Hate to Write. She frequently presents workshops designed to help teachers meet educational needs of students with ASD. She is on the Advisory Board of Autism/Asperger Digest and is the author of the article “Please Don’t Make Me Write!”

Cheryl Boucher, M.S., OTR
Occupational Therapist

Cheryl Boucher is an Occupational Therapist with 30 years of experience. She earned a Master's degree in special education. She is a Member of the Central Indiana Autism Academy/School Autism Team and has presented at the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, IRCA Indianapolis Parent Workshop, and ARC Conference.