Building Writing Skills in Pediatric ABA Therapy

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can be truly transformative for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “ABA” is becoming a buzzword, as there is empirical support for its effectiveness. In ABA therapy, children who experience developmental delays work on building critical skills, including communication, language, adaptive skills, play skills, social skills, and more. As children develop their expressive and receptive communication skills in ABA therapy, it is also important to consider handwriting. Throughout early childhood development, building writing skills is a crucial skill for all young students to acquire, but this might pose some difficulty for children on the autism spectrum. As a parent or ABA therapist, however, there are ways for you to make writing easier for children on the spectrum.

Scribbling and coloring
For children who have not developed any writing skills, it might be helpful to start with the basics: scribbling or coloring. The fine motor skills and muscles used in both of these exercises are also used in writing, so practicing these skills in ABA therapy can help children progress toward actual handwriting.

Tracing and copying
Two ways that an ABA therapist can help children with writing are tracing and copying. While these strategies may seem very similar, tracing means that the child is writing over (on top of) a letter/number that is already provided, and copying means they are shown a letter/number and are asked to write that letter/number on their own.

Apps for writing skills
If your child on the spectrum excels when using technology, such as an iPad, during ABA therapy sessions, it might be helpful to try practicing writing with an app. There are many different apps for the iPad that allow children to practice tracing letters, numbers, etc. on the actual iPad screen. Once a child is comfortable with tracing on the screen, it may be easier for them to generalize this skill to writing with a pencil and paper.

Sensory issues and writing
Some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may also experience sensory issues or sensory sensitivities. As a result, they may have issues using certain writing tools. In these cases, it may be helpful to switch up the writing tools that your child is using in ABA therapy. Instead of a pencil, try using a thicker crayon or a dry erase marker on a white board.

Remember, every child is unique! Writing strategies that work with one child with autism in ABA therapy might not be ideal for another child.

Do you think your child could benefit from working on writing in ABA therapy in Chicago?
Contact Chicago ABA Therapy to learn about the services we provide for children, including ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and a therapeutic preschool program.

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Building Writing Skills