Handwriting struggles for children on the autism spectrum

Children need to learn how to write from a very young age.  In recent years writing has even become a prerequisite (in some countries) for primary school entry.

Even in a technology driven era handwriting and the ability to write with ease are still important.

  • Writing is an important aspect of childhood development
  • Handwriting does make a big difference, not only to a child’s learning but also to the child’s ability to show us what they have learnt

Handwriting skills, for children on the autism spectrum, may harder to master and there may be a few reasons:

One such reason is Fine Motor Development Problems.  Fine motor problems relate directly to the composition of the letter and how a child grips the pen.  If a student uses an improper grip, the physical act of writing can also be painful.

Concentration challenges is another reason why autistic children may struggle with writing.  Forming letters can take longer.

Forming letters is actually a very complex skill that involves pencil grip, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, muscle memory and posture.  Then, once the child has learnt to write letters, they will also need to learn how to write them properly.

  • must write all the letters in the same direction
  • how to write on a line or in a block
  • spacing letters
  • forming capital and lowercase letters
  • learn about punctuation.

Challenges with mirror writing can also be a contribution factor to delayed handwriting skills.  Some autistic children will see words in reverse or perceive it differently to the way it looks.

Poor memory and the child’s inability to remember the correct formation of a letter can play a part as well as visual processing problems. Some autistic children has an inability to visually process different images (visual discrimination) or they may not be aware of which direction a letter is facing (visual directionality).

Your child’s handwriting skills matters!

Their struggles to write will highlight other developmental challenges that the child may be experiencing – and you as the parent may be unaware of.

Early Intervention in Autism is the key!

Getting your child help from a very young age can help your autistic child overcome their resistance to pen-and-paper-based activities and handwriting.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.