How long should you let your child dictate his writing assignments?
As a parent of a child with autism who hates the feel of pencil on paper, this is an ongoing question I ask myself. Am I harming him by letting him dictate his writing assignments? Will he ever be able to write an essay on his own? Legitimate questions when you look at the big picture of your child’s education.
Lots of children with autism have a different processing speed than most. They hear what is said but it takes them a few moments to process it to answer correctly. Writing is difficult for them because it is hard for them to process their thoughts then transfer them to paper. They get so bogged down in trying to get their ideas out that their paragraphs are shorter. The effort seems insurmountable to them. This is where them dictating their assignments to you comes in handy.
My favorite part of the elementary Writeshop curriculum is that they encourage you to let the child dictate as long as necessary. The number one goal is that the child understands the writing process. They understand that children, especially boys, can struggle with getting their thoughts from their heads onto paper. You will get a much better-finished product if you just let their ideas flow. The theory is that as their confidence in writing increases as well as their knowledge then they will need to dictate to you less. For children with autism, this may come a bit later than average.
If you go with a child’s developmental level, then he may still be dictating his work into high school. A few things I did with Logan to help ease the transition to completely independent work was :
- Always allow him to type out his sloppy copy as well as his finished product. I didn’t want his sensory issues to overwhelm him. It was easier for him to write at the editing phase. How he got the work done was inconsequential to me.
- Pre-writing, practice paragraphs, and brainstorming were all dictated especially with new concepts. It was more important that he understood the writing concept than he writes it on his own. I transcribed the answers for him. He made much better connections when not worried about the actual writing.
- If it was a difficult week or he was struggling, I transcribed his first draft. He was still responsible for making the edits necessary then typing his final draft.
In the grand scheme of things, let your child dictate his assignments to you as long as necessary. You should be much more concerned with his mastery of the writing concepts than he does the actual writing or typing. You know your child best. Do what is best for him. If it’s best that he dictate then dictate regardless of the age or grade. Logan became a much better writer than I ever thought possible using this method. That makes all that typing worth it in the end.
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