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- [Host] We're thrilled to have Marlene Breitenbach doing a presentation for us this afternoon.

Marlene is a special educator and board certified behavior analyst with over 30 years of experience, teaching individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

She was a member of the consensus panel selected by the New York State Department of Health, which authored clinical practice guidelines for early intervention, autism pervasive developmental disorders.

In her current role as special education autism coordinator at the PEI Department of Education Early Learning and Culture Marlene guides the implementation of the provincial autism strategy.

She provides staff and consultant training and support for complex cases.

From 2001 to 2012 Marlene collaborated in research with Queens University to study the prevalence of autism in the Canadian provinces.

She's a member of our own inter-provincial autism education partnership, and she collaborated with her Atlantic partners in the development of the recently launched online training, ASD and Behavioral Interventions and Introduction for School Personnel.

As a private consultant, Marlene provides training and evidence-based practice as well as supervision for BCBA candidates.

And she's the author of "Play Step" books, pitcher instructions for constructive play and basic skills checklist at teacher friendly classroom assessment.

And so please join me this afternoon in welcoming Marlene and Marlene, take it away.

- Thank you, hopefully everybody can hear me okay.

This is the world premier, both for me doing a webinar and also the Nitty Gritty Writing Assessment somehow coming out without a red carpet.

But in any case, I was very, very happy to be asked by my colleagues in the autism and education group to do the webinar.

This is a little bit different from webinars that we've offered in the past, and that I'm not basically a researcher, I'm basically a teacher and educator.

And so it'll be a little bit different in terms of the content.

And we're very interested in hearing your feedback about if you find this helpful, because this is basically a sharing from teacher to teacher educator, to educator some tools and perhaps some ideas that you might find useful.

I just wanted to mention that the handouts in the handouts that were sent to you, there was a copy of the factor checklist.

And I'm hoping that maybe you came with that copy or in the meantime, if somebody could make copies for you.

'Cause we are going to look at that in more detail as the webinar goes on.

The other thing about the handouts is I did include some of the key references that I used and some of them that I wanna highlight, I'll talk about later on in the presentation.

So without further ado, I'm just gonna jump right in here.

First of all, the overall goals for today, I wanted to start with identifying some of the problem areas related to handwriting for learners with autism spectrum disorders.

I think some of the things, some of the ideas that we talk about today may apply also to other children other than autism.

But the focus of today is the children who are on the spectrum and have those more complicated perhaps areas of disability.

So I do want to talk about some of the research related to autism spectrum disorder and handwriting, and describe this Nitty Gritty Writing Assessments this informal assessment, that is the result of my time spent thinking and about this and working with children.

And then to see perhaps how that can lead to the beginning of some intervention related to this topic area.

So I think where this all started is that, I've worked with a number of students.

And I know I've heard from many of you that you very frequently have students who are in the in the early stages of learning how to write or even have learned how to do the mechanics of writing, but are having great difficulty with lots of behavioral issues around writing.

In the beginning it seems like, you know, it's perhaps in the middle of the task, they start to become resistant.

And then over time, what happens is you get out the pencil and you already see the behaviors.

So we really need to figure this out, right? Little saying from Eeyore, "This writing business, pencils and whatnot, overrated, if you ask me." Well, I think some of our kids would probably agree.

So I think in, as we kind of jumped into this, what I want you to think about is not just what I ended up with in terms of the checklist and sort of writing down what I think about when I'm trying to help kids around handwriting, but also how did I get to that point? What was the process that I used? Because I think sometimes asking the right questions is just as important as finding some of the answers.

So as we're going through, I think, think about the process that I used as well.

So in the beginning of this process, I was faced with the behaviors around writing.

And what we think we know is that there's often non-compliance tantrums, other forms of problem behavior around writing tasks.

And we also know that ASD is associated with a high prevalence of fine motor difficulties, manual dexterity difficulties.

We see that a lot with kids.

Even though it isn't one of the core criteria.

And in general, we know that if you have deficits in that area, you're much more likely to end up with illegible handwriting, slow handwriting or just problems with it in general.

So we also know that this is an important skill.

Socially significant behavior is what we're all about in applied behavior analysis.

So we know that this is an important target for intervention for a number of reasons, not only for self-expression but certainly academic outcomes.

If the child is skilled at writing and carefully it makes a huge difference in terms of their long-term outcomes, career wise and otherwise as well as their own self-acceptance and self-esteem and the acceptance to peers too.

If you become known as the child who doesn't know how to write in the classroom, that makes you a target for some teasing, perhaps.

So we know that this is an important thing to work on.

So that's kind of my initial rationale.

And then I thought, okay, well, I'm a behavior analyst, I should be able to figure this out.

So what do I know about a behavioral approach to solve problems? Well, I do know that I need to understand the function of the behavior, what's causing the behavior, what's in it for the child when they do these behaviors around writing tasks? And then once I know that I can start to do things to prevent the need for that behavior to happen.

So I can try to reduce it or prevent the need for the behavior.

And then of course teach the new skills to replace the skills that are missing or that the child doesn't practice enough and reinforce the new skills.

That's it in a nutshell, Eeyore, my nutshell on the top.

So I thought, well, that's really simple enough.

I should be able to solve this, right? So the first number one was around the function.

And in order to understand that I thought, well, here are the key questions that I need to be able to answer.

What are those skills that are needed for writing? For the handwriting.

And what do I think might be contributing to making writing a non-preferred task for kids? So I would need to turn to the research.

What has the research demonstrated to us? And what's available out there specifically about autism.

Because we know this is more complicated than it might be for a typical children who are just learning more slowly perhaps.

And then if the research gives me some good pointers in the right direction, what strategies would potentially make the task less challenging? So I think those are important questions.

And that's really where I was when I started.

This was one of the first pieces of information that I read if I kind of got going on, looking at what had been written about it.

And I think the thing that struck me about this is that writing is a complex interaction, physical, cognitive and sensory systems all need to be working well in order for writing, which is a complicated set of skills, in order for the child to be successful.

So that spurred me on to look more deeply into what the research said out there.

But even if we just think about autism, we know that kids with autism have significant language problems.

And we know that for many children, that there are fine motor problems.

So what's the most important piece here.

How do we figure it out, how do we tease it out, separate it out and so we can target those skills more effectively.

So in terms of some of the motor skills, we know that for writing to happen well, eye-hand coordination is necessary.

We know that that's sometimes difficult for kids with autism.

And certainly motor planning.

How do they plan where their body is, how's their awareness of their body and space sometimes plays into the overall picture of can they settle down and sit quietly even to start the writing process.

Manual dexterity, We know that kids, many kids have difficulty with learning how to hold their pencil correctly as they go along.

And so of course that's gonna be an issue here as well.

And then what about sensory differences? Now I'm starting to think, oh my gosh, there's all these different factors, but certainly we have kids who don't wanna be touched.

Well, if you're trying to help somebody hand over hand to write letters and to copy and trace and the child doesn't wanna be touched, then that sensory issue may be impairing their ability to learn better skills along these lines.

Some kids don't like to touch the pens and pencils themselves or particular texture of paper.

So sometimes that can be a factor as well.

The language issues are huge really, as I know that you're all working with kids with autism, so you're fully aware of how complicated the language skills or lack of skills can be.

In particular, I wanna think about where they are with their communication, because sometimes there's the mismatch between what we are targeting for kids to do in writing, as opposed to what they can use in their everyday language.

So that's something that sometimes complicates the matter.

Concept development and vocabulary building is often delayed for our kids as we know.

And so if you're asking a child to write something and they don't have the vocabulary for it or they haven't yet learn the concepts, then that's also gonna get in the way.

Literacy skills as well as pre-literacy skills is also a factor.

So, I guess the picture that I was starting to begin to understand is just how complex learning how to write actually is in particular for a child who might have deficits in other areas not just in the actual handwriting.

So when I think about the language, I think about some children where, they're sitting down in the classroom or saying, write something about your weekend, write what you did last night.

And it might be a child whose everyday spontaneous language is only up to two to three word level.

And so sometimes there's a mismatch between the demands that we're making in terms of content and the actual language level of child.

Auditory memory.

Think about kids where you're dictating something.

So you say, in a spelling test for example, write the word school.

So they hear that, they looked at the paper, now they're trying to get their paper right, get the (indistinct) and now they've really already forgotten that word.

So sometimes auditory memory can really wreak havoc around kids.

And not necessarily because they're not trying to be not compliant if you will, but the auditory memory has just gotten in the way.

We know that a lot of kids have word finding problems.

Not just children with autism, but certainly that can interfere.

And I think you would probably say that you had often seen where a person working with the child, whether it's an aide or the teacher, and they're trying to get the child to write something, the child can't get started writing anything and so they'll say to the child, will you tell me in your own words.

And the child can actually say it in their own words, but still can't write it down.

And we see that kind of mismatch happening.

Organizing and sequencing thoughts, that's sort of executive function area for kids with autism can sometimes also interfere.

So, wow, there's a lot to think about when we're trying to drill down and figure out what part of this is difficult for the child and how can we best intervene.

"oh I see by your bubble that you can't think of anything to write about." Yeah, that happens a bit with our kids.


So, now in addition to those motor factors and the language issues that might be coming up, what about motivation? What's in it for the child if we say, I want you to write a sentence about texts.

If I hate to write, I am not gonna be motivated to sit down and write about whatever you tell me to write about.

So if that motivation isn't coming from the child themselves, we're gonna need to layer on some type of reinforcement to help change that or to change the task in such a way that it's gonna be more motivating.

So we're gonna have to pay attention to that at some point, right? And then what about attention? Sometimes we have kids with very short attention spans.

Should we be asking them to do a really long-written sentence or maybe just copy two letters.

We have to pay attention to that.

So there's all kinds of factors I think that contribute possibly to the stress of writing or to the sense that the child gets frustrated because they might not be successful if they jump in.

And really we can understand why a little bit more.

So what happened then was I thought, okay, I'm starting to understand better how complicated this can be for a child with autism.

Where can I start? Because really what I wanna change is the behavior in the end.

So what would be considered evidence-based practice? And that's what I need to search through the research for, to help guide me in that direction.

So that's where I started.

This was kind of interesting.

One of the first studies that I came across really reviewed all the studies that were available about autism and handwriting for almost 60 years.

Which is astounding because there were only seven studies and one of those would have been a case study way back from Lora Wings time, so really what, you know, what he discovered when he did the review is boy, there's not very much out there.

And we're really just starting to take a careful look at that.

So there were only a small number of studies and in those studies, what was noted is that there was poor legibility compared to typically developing children and that, I'm just gonna press on this here, that one of the variables about writing that seemed to come through in those studies was that the letter formation was kind of the core difficulty.

And if you can't form the letter correctly, it affects all these other things.

Legibility, the alignments basing, et cetera and the speed, of course, if you're having difficulty making the letter, then it's gonna slow things down, et cetera.

So it was the beginning of them trying to take a more focused look at some of these issues for kids.

So here's what they learned, some of these early studies, the children with ASD showed overall worse performance on handwriting tasks.

Now, knowing that in our experience, we have seen lots of kids with fine motor difficulties and ASD is not the same as having it be demonstrated through a carefully controlled study.

So these were some of the earlier ones that demonstrated that in particular related to handwriting.

And that the motor abilities, so their fine motor dexterity, eye-hand coordination were good predictors of whether or not the handwriting performance would be a skilled or not skilled.

Then they also demonstrated that those difficulties didn't go across all domains, all aspects of writing, but primarily around forming the letters.

Now, again, this was one of the earlier studies, but still they're trying to hone in on, what those difficulties might be.

So what they found was that these difficulties with motor control, so motor planning and eye-hand coordination contributed to the handwriting being lower quality and the kids having a lot more difficulty with it.

This was one of the first recommendations that I found in the research that targeting motor control was the best approach to improving handwriting.

And I thought that was kind of interesting because theoretically as good teachers, we know if we want kids to get better, we have to help them practice.

But this one specifically was talking about motor control as an area that we needed to focus on.

Then there was a huge study in 2007.

They compare children, not only with autism and ADHD, but other neurological disorders.

And here's what they found, learning problems, attention problems, graphomotor and processing speed weaknesses that those things tended to cluster together.

And they clearly differentiated those children with autism and ADHD from more typical children.

So that was an important piece.

It basically reconfirmed some of the studies earlier.

Then this one was an interesting one too Cartmill in 2009, they were trying to figure out what are the, exactly the variables in writing that the kids were having difficulty with.

They did find that letter formation again, was significantly different.

The handwriting speed was different.

And of course, if you're writing faster, it's less consistent in terms of the quality of the writing.

But this was, I think one of the first ones that started to list and they identified 13 different variables.

So it's a very interesting study if you want to take a closer look at one of the kinds of things that children need to be able to do in order to write and meet our expectations in terms of quality.

So they need to be able to sense their position and their movement of their body and space.

And again, we know for some children, that's a problem.

They need to be able to recognize and name letters, theoretically, that goes without saying, but how many times have we asked kids to start writing because we saw they knew some letters, but we're not really sure if they know all the letters.

So it is important.

Producing the sounds for letters.

We know lots of kids who can rawly identify all the letters of the alphabet upper and lower case, but they still may not associate sounds with letters.

And they do need that eventually, as they're trying to sound out words that they're writing, then there's this word remember, they have to be able to remember those letters, strings of letters for a period of time, that goes back to sort of the memory issue and forming the letters correctly with consistent size and information.

So again, they were trying to drill down and see what might be contributing to this.

One thing we're basically saying I think is that, in order for kids to master all of these different skills, we have to look at all the domains.

We have to find out where are they lacking some of the skills and there's no single one thing that's gonna solve the problem, but we have to be aware of what those possibilities might be.

So why is all of this important? Why are they even starting to study this? Problems with mechanics of handwriting, interfere with higher order cognitive and language process.

So basically what that means is the mechanics of writing.

If I'm having difficulty with that and I have to focus so hard on how am I holding my pencil? Did I make the right letter? Did I write the letter backwards? Is it too below the line? Is it above the line? And I'm gonna have to erase it because it wasn't perfect.

Right? All of that takes all of your focus away from the spelling, the vocabulary, the syntax and the grammar.

So it's very important that we help kids get to a point where that part of it is more automatic.

So this written text requires us to process cognitively, and motorically when we're doing writing.

And this is an important word, automaticity.

Automaticity, the ability to retrieve and produce those letters automatically.

And what I've learned through my reading for this is that I guess I made assumption that in kindergarten, grade one, they learn how to write those letters and then everything is good to go after that.

But what we're really talking about is automaticity in the larger picture.

So not just learning how to do it slowly and carefully, but getting to the point where you don't have to stop and think about how to make a B to write the word ball that you just write the word ball.

And that takes a long period of time and the kids develop those skills over most of the elementary years.

So it isn't a one-time thing, but once kids reach that level, then they're able to focus more on the actual cognitive content if you will.

So I think this is an important quote, "If letter production is automatic, memory is freed up for higher level cognitive processes, deciding what to write about what to say and how to say it." So again, it, for me, it kept reaffirming in a way that we need to be sure that we're actually focusing on that as the foundation.

So that brought me back to my original question.

Okay, what comes first? The behavior, is it just a behavior or is the behavior happening because of some of these other factors and in applied behavior analysis, there's a term concept called parsimony, which means to rule out simple things first.

So I'm thinking if part of the simple thing is to look at that mechanics of handwriting and see what we can do to teach that better, to help the child get past some of those naughty skills that are difficult and move closer towards that automatic level, if that was able to be done for kids, would that at least help a little bit? So it brought me back to this question.

And so this is what I found that sort of summarize things for me, teaching children how to form letters, build motor control, stabilizing their arm and using correct utensils, might be the best direction for improving handwriting performance.

And since that's what I really wanted to do, I really liked this guys (indistinct) so I took that to heart and started to summarize my thoughts.

And so I could think about the next steps, right? So this summarize for me what I had learned, the handwriting requires skills in several domains that are particularly challenging for learners with autism, that the motor aspects of writing often are part of that significant problem and might be contributing to those problem behaviors and that the mechanics of handwriting need to be explicitly taught.

And I really liked that word explicit because it means that we need to break it down and check each part of it, make sure that the child is comfortable and skilled at each step along the way in order to reach that level of automaticity.

And if we improve children's skills in this area, it might make the overall task easier and allow for instruction in some of those more complicated language-based aspects of handwriting.

Okay, so now I was back where I started again, right.

Except that now I had a pretty good idea that I was on the right track.

And so I thought, okay, so now really what I wanna do is start teaching those mechanics of handwriting.

And in order to do that, I need to know where do I start? And the only way I can know where to start is to assess where the child currently is, which led us to of course, developing the Nitty Gritty Writing Assessment.

So that was my process.

And I guess everybody might have different ways to go about it, but I tend to ask myself questions along the way and see if the questions lead me in the right direction.

So, now I was at the point where I wanted to assess the child or the children that I was working with and find out exactly where they were around this mechanics of writing.

I wanted to do it in a somewhat formalized way that I could repeat.

So I didn't want it to just be, you know, I'll sit down with the child and check things out.

I wanted to have a little bit more formal process, but one that I could do in the course of a school day, that wasn't dependent on how much language the child had.

And that was sort of practical and efficient with a manageable time commitment.

So I think that's where I started.

And I also knew that I wanted it to include both direct observation and hands-on instruction or work with the child, which I firmly believe is, you know, a key to good programming for kids, regardless of what you're working on.

But the direct in observation really helps you take a step back and watch like a fly on the wall without being directly involved.

And sometimes that's quite a good help when you're trying to figure out what's happening for the child.

So here's what it is.

It's a structured observation tool.

And what I mean by that is you basically go down the list of items that are in the tool, in the order in which they're presented.

And that structure enables you to sort of focus on some of those key items and the items that are in there are the ones that are known to influence handwriting.

If you find others that I may have left out of there, I'd certainly be happy to have your feedback on that.

But I tried to include most of what I knew from my experience and from my reading.

And so I want to be able to determine if the child's motivation to escape the task is somehow related to this.

And the idea is an assessment that's informal that can provide a starting point.

It is not to be on and all, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't involve an occupational therapist.

If you're lucky enough to have that kind of support in your school, they do have lots of expertise in the area of certainly motor skill and also in particular around writing, so, but if you don't have access to that or at the time, it's a starting point, and it might give you some more confidence that where you're starting is right where the child is.

So these are the components of it.

First, the direct observation, which usually takes about 15 minutes, give or take a few minutes.

And the same for the direct assessment, the direct assessment is you working with the child to try out some of the strategies, take a closer look, hands-on, at some of the concerns that you might've noticed when you did the observation.

And usually that would take about 15 or 20 minutes and they don't need to be done on the same day.

They should be done in sequence, but you could do one on Monday and one on next Monday.

As long as you do them both and they're related and interconnected to each other.

And then the final part is that you sit down with what you've learned and the notes you've taken and make a summary statements and some recommendations to yourself.

It's basically a way to talk to yourself, right? You're, going through a process that hopefully will be helpful to you.

Okay, so what I'd like you to do is to get out your copy of the Nitty Gritty Writing Assessment.

The part of it, that is the factor checklist is what we're gonna be looking at.

And so we'll talk first about sort of how you jump into that, right? So the first part of this is that in order to do the observation, you want to choose a time during the school day when the child is required to do a writing activity anyway.

So you're not changing their routine, you're doing it in the context of their normal routine, whether they're doing it independently or whether they're doing it with assistance, it doesn't matter, but you want them to be able to be far enough away from the child, that they're not gonna be looking at you.

And really, hopefully not really even noticing that you're paying that close attention to them.

And we don't during the observation, you wanna be a fly on the wall.

You wanna just pretend you're a video camera.

You don't want to be interacting with the student or other students or staff.

So sometimes you need to figure out how that's gonna work in your classroom.

You might need to, in some cases, I know the resource teacher might come in and just be present in the classroom for 15 minutes while you're doing the observation or assisting children with other content areas, or it's a silent reading time or whatever it happens to be.

So you wanna try to plan so that you're separating yourself from whatever else is going on in the classroom.

So you can really pay close attention.

So as you basically would just put this on a clipboard and sit there, watching the child.

If there is a support staff working with the child, you want them to be on the other side of the child.

So they're not blocking your view of the child.

So you have to kind of figure out where you're gonna be sitting through this.

And then basically you're gonna go down through the checklist and we're going to go through it piece by piece.

So you kind of get a better sense maybe of where, what we're looking at and then make notes in each one of the observed column areas.

As you go down through each section, if there's something that is clearly jumping out at you as a problem area, you just check it under or write yes, under the concern so that when you go back and look, you can have a quick check to identify the areas that are sort of problematic for you.

So these variables in this checklist are based on the key skills for handwriting, and they're basically there to help you remember to focus on them and to make some comments on them.

And they're broken down into some content areas which are these five, and we're gonna look at them.

We're gonna look at them each individually.

So the first one being sort of the environmental factors, then physical elements, more about the child, their positioning, et cetera, and materials, what support is provided if any, and then the quality of the actual writing.

So these are the areas we're gonna jump on first.

So if you look at your, if you look at your checklist, one of the first pieces in there is the furniture.

I just want to describe to you I was observing a child recently, who was, there was an assistant working with him.

He was at a table, and the stool that he was sitting on was a stool with a round seat and it had wheels on the bottom.

So it kind of could slide around and it was quite high.

So he, and it was so high that his feet weren't on the ground.

And so his writing was just all over the place.

Now that's a really simple solution.

He needs to be in a chair with his feet on the ground and his arms on the table and are already the writing is gonna improve.

So we wanna pay first attention to what position is the child in, Vis-a-vis their furniture.

And I have a little slide coming up that will illustrate that.

But basically, I know if you've worked with OTs, you often hear them say 90, 90, 90, right? So he wanted 90 degrees, you want feet on the floor, 90 degrees, where the knees come up and go over to the hips and 90 degrees up.

So you want the child to have stability in their upper body and they can not have that if the feet are not on the ground.

So that's an important thing.

So you're looking at the furniture and you're saying, well, his knees fit under the desk with a little bit of extra room, right? And feet are flat on the floor and the arms are resting on the desk.

So not up high, not down low, but they're very comfortable for a level where your arms would actually fall quite naturally.

And if the child's in that position, then the likelihood is higher.

That the furniture is at the right size and position for him.

So that's the first aspect of furniture that you're gonna take a look at.

The lighting, I put that in there because in schools, lighting usually isn't an issue.

But if you see that a child is doing a lot of squinting, or if they may have some sensory aversion or sensory response to particular lights, if you see anything that looks like it might be that, then you would note it in here.

Or if there's so much shadow on their work, that they can't see it because of where the lighting direction is coming from, then you would make a note of that.

Distance, copy distance and distance from the Blackboard.

This is important.

When we ask kids to do some writing, we're often it's copying, we're saying, here's your homework, it's up on the board, copied into your assignment book so you can take it home.

So in order to do that, you have to look at a distance away, sometimes quite a distance away, make sure you see it, remember what you see and then look down, remember what you saw and write it.

And that's quite a task.

And especially if a kids are already having difficulty with copying and writing, they're maybe even gonna have more difficulty because it's further away, but the same thing can happen, if you're asking a child to copy something from a book and it's on the table, it's on the desk with them.

They look at the book, they read it.

But as soon as they go to write, they've forgotten that.

So if you see kids having to go back and forth a lot between something they have to copy and the paper you might wanna make note of that.

We want the desk itself to be uncluttered.

It's really important because later on, we're gonna see that we need to have a correct position for the paper, correct positions for the child's arms and hands and writing hand.

And they can't do that if there's a lot of other stuff on the desk.

And I know most teachers are very, very careful about that.

But if you were to see that he couldn't put the paper where it needed to be, 'cause there's a big book over here, then you would make note of that.

Okay so those are just kind of some initial environmental pieces.

In the course and article that I read, she noted that appropriate seating support often positively impacts handwriting.

Even if you don't do anything else.

Which is really important for us to know.

So this is just a little picture that I found that illustrated that if there are any OTs watching, I think they'd be happy with me.

So the elbows you noticed that elbows are right on the table and nice and flat, the back is supported and the feet are on the floor.

Again, it's all to keep the upper body nice and stable so that the child isn't trying to balance their body while they're trying to do their writing.


So now we're going down to some of the physical elements, any questions about the environmental things or anything so far? - [Host] Marlene one question that came up and I'm not sure where the best spot is to discuss it, but just wondering what about keyboarding, as opposed to writing in which elements might overlap? - I have about four slides at the end of the presentation where we're just gonna talk about that.

So let's hold off on that for now.

It's cause it's not just keyboarding it's any other alternate type of writing communication.

So, but we'll just hold on that, it's a good question though.

- [Host] Great, thanks.

That was the only one so far.

- Okay, good.

Okay so, now we're down to the physical elements.

This is one where many kids have difficulty.

So when we're talking about posture and body position, we want the kids to be sitting upright.

We do not want them slumped down on the desk.

You don't want their head down on their arm.

We don't want them sitting on their feet.

We want them to see this, stabilize that we gonna drill that into them later.

But right now we just wanna see what does it look like now? We want them sitting on their bottom, not on their feet.

So, if you see anything other than good posture, good stable posture and child sitting upright, then you would make note of that in that section.

In the eye-hand coordination section, what happens when the child looks at their work and looks away, do they appear to be confused? Do they have to go back and forth several times to copy one word? If you can see that now, if you're a distance away, you may not be able to see all of these things.

And if you can't, then you're gonna check it out when you work directly with the child.

But if you can see it, it's a good idea to make note of it here.

And certainly if you see a child who's holding the paper very close or putting their eyes down very close to it, you would make note of that too, to make sure you can rule out any possible visual acuity questions that might have arisen.

Okay, so that's the eye-hand coordination.

Arm physician, so we do want to have the non-dominant hand supporting and holding the paper.

Because that's part of the stability if you have your arm down now, see, you can't see this, but I'm modeling for you as we speak.

But if you have your arms out on the table, holding that paper, it also gives you more stability to free up your dominant hand, to do the writing.

So we do want to encourage kids to hold that paper with the non-dominant hand and holding it up higher on the paper where it's gonna make a difference for their overall stability.

So when you're looking here using the checklist, you want to know if they're using their non-dominant hand to hold the paper.

And if so, where are they doing that? Are they just holding the little bottom? Are they holding it at the top? What are they doing? Right? And are their arms resting on the table in general? One thing to take a look at, especially now, I'm gonna, whenever there are differences between left-handers and right-handers, I'm gonna try to point that out as I go along.

But one of the things you wanna pay attention to when the child is writing, is their hand or wrist covering up their writing as they do it.

And kids who develop really awkward grasps, and especially left-handers often will be actually covering their writing as they go.

And it's creates problems for them pretty much throughout.

We're gonna look at the grasp last here.

So I'm just gonna go to the next, next one.

So look at this one for a second.

Now this is why I'm gonna ask you what's wrong here.

I'm just gonna give you a minute to look at it.

Maybe chat about it, 'cause there are two or three things wrong here that I'd like you to have identified.


So a couple of, oh, here somebody's answering good Angela.

So she's slouched over, oh this is working well, I can actually see what you're answering, so this is great.

So Angela noticed that she was slouched over.

So really what it looks like to me is that this desk is actually too high for her.

If she can, with a little bit of a lean, she's already pretty much flat out on the desk, probably that desk is too high.

And someone also noticed Elizabeth notice that the pencil grasp looks quite awkward and it's definitely not a tripod grasp.

Somebody else noticed, Maya that her right elbow is not on the table, excellent.

What else, did anybody notice anything about the paper? Yeah, well there's other papers on the table too, yeah, which really aren't necessary could be out of there, but the position of her paper, which we're gonna talk about in a bit is not correct for a right-hander.

She's got it sort of squarely in front of her body, which isn't how we would want it to be.

Okay, great.

Thank you.

This works is great.

So if you want to type in some of those answers as we go along, that would be kind of fun, make it more interactive.


So, some of the other physical elements that you wanna remember is you don't want to see a lot of movement, extraneous body movement.

Excuse me.

You don't want lots of arm and other kinds of movements, a lot of fidgety movements.

You want the arm, everything stable and quiet as much as possible.

So if you're not seeing that, and you're not seeing sort of coordinated hand and shoulder movement, then this would be a good place to note that.

Hand dominance, really in this section, what you wanna do is note which hand the child is using.

So assumably, they're using whatever is their dominant hand.

And if they switch hands, you want them to know that as well.

Now, most kids hand dominance is established before they enter school in kindergarten.

But for some kids, especially kids who have some element of neurological differences that can be delayed.

And certainly we have seen some children with autism where it takes quite a while for them to actually establish hand dominance, but really important for you to know that so you would note that in here.

And of course, if they're switching hands as well.

Okay, now let's go on here.

So I wanted to spend a little more time on grasp itself because I don't think in, you know, in looking at this, that we're expecting that every child we teach is going to have the perfect grasp.

If we just teach them.

We're not expecting that every child's gonna write perfectly, stay perfectly on the line.

We know that there's always gonna be a lot of variability, but we also know that the longer you do something wrong, the longer it takes to fix it and to shape it into something that will work better.

So if possible, we wanna start early in helping kids develop a correct grasp.

And I think our preschool our early years people certainly work on that and as they come into kindergarten and early elementary, we all work on that.

But this is I think, a nice graphic that shows how typical children might develop.

So it's not that holding the pencil, in an earlier or a more immature fashion is wrong.

It's going through a developmental stage of building more and more control as time goes on.

So we then tend to see fisted grasp, and then certainly around two or three, this kind of digital or pointing down grass.

You see kids using that with chalk, with, you know, with paint brushes, with all kinds of things.

And then you see around age three to four, they're starting to move towards a more controlled grasp and then lo and behold in kindergarten, it starts to really improve or the ability to improve can happen.

So we wanna pay attention to where the child is in that they don't need to go through all of these steps to get to a tripod grasp, right? But most typical children probably do.

Okay, so what's wrong with these? Let's look at the one on the left.

What's wrong with that grasp? Any thoughts on that? Right.

So Angela says the hand is above the writing.

The other thing is that you see that, that this is sort of crooked, like the arm isn't straight and bent.

And so when that child writes what's gonna be moving up and down is the wrist, right? So this kind of finger writing effect is as opposed to a whole arm effect, what happens if a child's writing like this, it's extremely tiring and I'll just give you a tip right here.

If you are trying to correct a child's grasp, and you're trying to figure out what's wrong with it.

If you will make yourself do the same thing and write something and you'll see immediately where the problem is.

So do it yourself.

I think in this second, the middle picture in here, that child has that sort of immature grasp.

And also the arm appears to be raised up quite high, right? So we need the arm to be down on the table.

And of course the one on the right it's much more immature grasp.

And somebody from Halifax is noting that yeah, that the hand will be very fatigued.

So yes, good, good points.

What's wrong with these two? Yes, okay, great.

So, someone said the way the child is grasping, it is incorrect.

The thumb is all bent over it.

It's definitely not the tripod grasp and the fingers are way up too high on the pencil.

You can also see here that, that the child's hand and wrist is sort of hovering above the paper, right? That gets you really poor control, right? Okay, great.

Thank you.

So in the ideal world, we want kids to be able to, to do something like the picture on the right where it's a very relaxed hold, but with good control and the pen would be down on the paper.

So in that section, on your checklist, when you get to the utensil grasp, what I want you to do is to be able to describe what you see and describe whether it looks comfortable, whether it's too loose, whether it appears to be very tightly fisted, where you can see the stress in the hand, anything that you noticed that indicates that it might be a problem area.


So any other questions or comments about that so far? - [Host] There were a couple of questions Marlene, Angela and her group are wondering what you can do for students with poor core muscle strength.

If you have any suggestions, as far as the seating position.

- Well, that's interesting that you bring that up because it is mentioned in some of the studies that if children have poor upper body strength and they need support, then often the support, I mean, aside from exercises to build the support in terms of the seating support, they may need some adaptations to the seat itself.

And I have seen some, and of course you would want to have either an occupational physical therapists to help design that and build that for, based on an individual child's needs.

But, so I don't know if that answers the question.

I'm not an occupational physical therapist, but if the typical chair, if the child's in a typical chair and that's not providing enough support, then often we would try a chair with arms, but you still have to be able to push that chair in close enough to the table.

So it's a good idea I think if that's an issue to consult with an occupational therapist, if you think that the child needs more, more support or padding around that area.

Okay, so anything else? - [Host] Yep, one other quick question.

Some children use something like a disco seat or a wiggle seat to help them pay attention.

What are your thoughts on using that during writing tasks? - I know that different kinds of seating arrangements have been in use, generally they would be things that have been put in place by or recommended by an occupational physical therapist.

The only real comment I have on that is that if you're sitting on a stool or on one of those seats, without that support, you're not gonna be any more stable for writing than you were before.

I guess it depends on what purpose they have.

There isn't any research that I'm aware of, that documents that having the wiggle seat decreases activity level in, you know, or increases attention or anything else.

There may be some out there, but I haven't, I haven't done an extended search for that, but I think the proof is in the pudding, if you will.

So if you add something to a child's seating arrangement and the result is that they're more stable, then you do it.

But if the result is not any different then you're just adding in something that isn't really helping.

So I don't know if that answers the question, but kind of depends on the purpose too.

- [Host] Great, thank you very much.

- We're gonna take a quicker look at what the materials are that the child is using and notice that really, we haven't really even talked about the content of, you know, is he writing letters? Is he writing words? Is he writing sentences? That really has to do with the literacy skills and the language piece of it.

And it's very important, but we're at the foundation level here.

So we're gonna look at the type of paper, how the paper's positioned, et cetera.

So in the first piece of it, sometimes kids will be writing in a scribbler, a notebook, a binder, it can make a big difference whether you're writing in something or flat on the table.

And so if you're watching a child and they're writing in a notebook and you see that, they're not able to keep the paper quite flat or whatever, then when you work with them, you might want to try out a flat paper instead of a notebook and see if that makes a difference.

Some kids have been given binders as an inclined surface to write on if that seems to be helping great.

You might wanna try it without to see whether you get better writing control with and without.

So in this area, around the type of paper you wanna also pay attention to the lines.

Now I know that often the materials that we use in early elementary, it basically is what we're given to use sometimes you can order special papers.

So if you were to go into five different classrooms, you're likely to see five different types of paper for early writers.

And some of them will have, you know, a red line two blue lines, some will be half inch, some will be inch and a half.

Some will have little houses and little rooftops on them to guide.

And there's nothing wrong with anything of that.

It's just that we kind of make the assumption that the same paper's gonna be fine for everybody.

So what you're gonna see in your observation is how does the child do with whatever paper he's been given? And I think often we make the assumption that if the lines are further apart, the kids are gonna do better because they write big letters anyway.

And that can be true for some kids, that some kids do better when it's smaller because it forces them to have more control.

So when you look at the paper, you wanna write down basically what kind of paper it is, and sort of the width of the lines, if you can, and whether there are any additional cues on the paper that might be helping or not helping the child.

And then the paper position.

So the paper position, I'm gonna show you a slide in a second that that illustrates it.

But basically the bottom corner is in front of the students the middle of the students.

So the students midline and for right-handers, that's tilted to the right and for left-handers, it's tilted to the left.

So what you want to do is make note of that as you're going along.

Let me just go to that slide so you can see it and then we'll come back.

So the paper tilts clockwise for a left-hander counter-clockwise for a right-hander, that makes sense? So this is the midline for the child, and that's how you want that to look.

I'm gonna go back here for a second.

Okay, so what you wanna do is make note of where is that paper relative to the student, when you're doing your observation, and is it located in a place that looks appropriate, if there's an assistant working with them or an aide working with them, or if it's another teacher working with him, sometimes the adult was over to help and immediately they'll move the paper over.

So it works for them, but it no longer works for the students.

So just something to keep an eye on.

Okay, we're gonna look more at the types of utensils the child is using here in a second, but here's back to some of the papers that people often may have.

You can see this as kind of a basic primary one.

This one, these are Wikki Stix.

You're probably familiar with those.

They're just basically waxed strips that you pull off one at a time and you can just touch them and they stick to the paper.

So if you need a bottom line there for the child to adhere to some people use rulers, you know, there's all kinds of things.

I'm just listing a few here, so that you have a sense of some of the possibilities and make sure that you make note of that when you're looking at it.

Again in this Coffin summary in 2016, special papers could be used to support instruction as well as provide ongoing visual support if needed, right, if needed and if effective.

So again, this is a paper position that would be showing the correct position and then back to our correct one here.

And then utensil.

So on your checklist, you're gonna make note, what kind of utensils are being used.

Are they adaptive or are they something that anybody could pick up? So it's just a regular number two pencil.

These two pencils on the top have triangular shapes to them.

So if they're using anything like that, that represents something that is perhaps helping the child, then make note of that.

Or if they're used to using regular pencil, you would put that down as well.

It's important to make note of the width and the length of what they're using.

Some kids do better with a fat utensil, if that is a marker and other kids don't, some kids do better with a very short pencil because it kind of forces them to keep their hand down further.

Some kids do just fine with the regular length.

So you wanna pay attention to that and write down whatever you see there.

So these are just a few of the adaptive grips.

I'm sure you've seen lots of them.

So the upper right one is basically just increasing the overall circumference of the pencil.

Whereas the other ones are actually trying to shape the tripod grasp.

So now if there's no staff working directly with the child while you're observing, then you can skip this part.

But if there is someone working, then you can, there's some valuable information that can be gained.

So you want to first pay attention to where is the staff person relative to the child.

So in general, the staff person should be on the child's hand, dominant side.

Anybody know why? See if we can get a quick answer.

Why does the staff person need to be on the child's hand-dominant side? Yes, to have so, Angela noted to help out quickly as needed, but you can help out quickly from either side, right? Yes, and someone in Halifax says, and a few others have said, for physical prompting, right? So if you do have to help the child, by helping them hand over hand, or even partially, physically, you can't do it by reaching across to their hand dominant side, right? Because if you do that, you're covering up what they wrote.

And you're basically gonna, it's gonna be a very awkward for you in the first place.

So you will do one as much as possible to be on the child's dominant side.

Sometimes it's important whether the child, whether the support staff is sitting or standing, sometimes it's safer to be standing.

If you have a child who is prone to reaching out slapping, and being a bit more aggressive, sitting next to a child is somewhat more what I would say, comforting or you're at the same level as the child.

So might be a bit less threatening if you will.

I don't know if threatening is the right word, but you have to decide sitting or standing based on the individual child.

But in the checklist, you're just basically noting, where is the staff person and what is their prompting like? So are they just telling the child how to do it? And is that successful? Are they modeling it for the child? And is that successful? Or are they having to physically prompt the child through the whole task or through part of the task? And is that successful or is the child very resistant to being physically prompted? The other piece that you can begin to get a bit more information on is noticing whether and what kind of reinforcement is provided.

We already know this is a challenging task for whatever reason for this child, or we wouldn't be focusing on it to this degree.

Is there social reinforcement and encouragement provided if there a talking system in place is the adult saying, "You just have to do this work, and then you get five minutes on the iPad." Is there some kind of something offered that will affect the child's motivation to do this? And that may give you clues about what you can do later when you get into the direct work with the child.


So what's wrong with this one? Right, she's not sitting on the hand dominant side and the paper isn't really positioned correctly either.

So even though she's smiling and looks pretty happy and like, she's really being nice to him.

It's likely that it's more difficult to prompt him from that side.

Okay, what's wrong with these? Let's look first at the one on the left.

Okay, good.

So here's some people noticing that she's not on his dominant side.

It looks like she might be trying to model for him, but while she's modeling for him, he's not gonna be able to see what she's writing either.

And someone else noticed that the paper is not placed correctly, good, very good.

What about the one on the right? Do you notice anything there that's a problem.

Right, again.

So not on the hand dominant side, right.

And the paper is positioned incorrectly and he's covering his writing, good, thank you.

Thank you all for noticing that.

Great, all right.

So we're on the final part of the checklist, which is looking at the actual quality of the writing that we're seeing.

So remember sort of trying to drill down and see how all of these factors may have affected the quality.

Now, if you are not, if you're able to be close enough to see these things, when you're doing the observation, you can mark them as you are watching, but if you're too far away to see them, you ask the child and or the person working with them to give you a copy of their work from that 15 minute observation.

And then you look at the example that they've given you and rate it based on that, okay.

So I'm just gonna flip to my quality checklists right here.

so under that you're just gonna make note of what type of letters were used and in particular, whether they were recognizable.

So if all the letters are recognizable, that's good too, to comment on if only some of them are recognizable and legible, then you need to notice that as well.

'Cause don't forget, we're trying to figure out, are there any prerequisite skills, like knowing letters, for example, that the child doesn't yet have, or is uncertain about.

So if you see anything like that, you would wanna take note of it.

You want to make note of whether the size of the letters is appropriate.

Many times we have kids who write very large and sort of micro graphy I guess, but you're gonna make note of that up here if you see that on the writing sample that you got and make note of letters that are facing the wrong direction, sometimes that might be confusing for letters like B and P or things that are lowercase very similar to each other.

And sometimes it'll be an E that's just playing backwards.

So if you see anything like that in there, just make note of that and how well do they stay on the line? Does it start off on the line and then drift up and just sort of a picture of that.

Now that the work sample that you're working from, you're gonna attach that to this checklist so that you have a record of what you saw the child do, what, you know, the work that he was able to do under these circumstances, make note, if the child is using anything to create spaces between words, sometimes kids have been taught to put a finger in, or they're using some other little implement that they put down on the paper.

If they're using anything like that, you would make note of it.

And in particular, make note, if they're mixing up their letters, their upper and lower case letters.

The next step is basically that you're gonna take that checklist.

You're gonna reread your notes on there and take a highlighter and go through and highlight any of the areas that you think are concerns or they're either definite concerns or things that you'd like to check on.

And then you're going to plan a lesson based on those concerns.

Now, it's a little bit difficult to give you sort of general information about what that lesson will look like, because it's very dependent on, is this a child who's just coloring or is this child who can write sentences? So what you work from though is the concerns.

So if you have a child where the concern is the grasp, then perhaps when you do the lesson, you're going to give the child an opportunity, to either trace or copy or write something and offer them different types of utensils and look at whether their grasp is improved and maybe some different adapters to see whether their grass is improved.

When you provide those kinds of support, you might try out different papers.

If you feel that the space that they had to write in was too wide, too narrow, or didn't have enough supports built into it color wise.

Start from where the concerns are.

You select the materials that will help you test out if you will, what prompts and what supports can work to address those.

And then you think ahead about what the reinforcement is gonna look like for the child.

So, again, even though you're only gonna do a short lesson with them, you want to make sure that it's as low stress as possible, and (indistinct) that you don't have a lot of behaviors happening.

So you wanna think ahead to what can I build into this lesson that will make it more interesting to the child? And certainly reinforce your assessments, et cetera.

These are the steps that I just went over.

You've thought about the reinforcement and you've prepared some materials to sit down with the child.

Now I included this point number one, involved the student, because the more you can involve the student in this, the better the information is gonna be.

So not all of the children are gonna be able to say, "Oh, this is too hard, this is too easy." But some of them will.

So if there's a way to engage the child and say you know, "I know this is really hard, so let's work together and see if we can make it easier.

First of all, can you sit like this?" So before you do anything else, you're gonna try and get the child involved.

"Now does that feel better? Are you comfortable? Okay, let's go to the next step." So the first thing you're gonna do before you get started is you're gonna make sure that that seating position is exactly what it needs to be.

So if you recognized the first go through with the checklist that the seating wasn't appropriate and the child wasn't stable, then you're gonna make darn sure that before you even sit that child down, this is gonna be right.

His feet are gonna be on the floor.

So before you've even done anything, you've created a more comfortable, possibly more stable position for the child.

And then this is what I guess I've been calling the ready for writing position.

We start by not talking about the writing.

We're talking about the ready for writing.

So before we even start, we have the child sit in the chair, move his chair up, "Great, great job.

Okay, now we've got your hands and look, your paper goes like this." So back to your other question, "This is where you put your paper and this is where your other hand goes.

Great, now you're oh, and now you need your pencil and you're holding it in the right grasp.

You haven't written anything yet, but now I have five different things I can reinforce you for.

You're sitting there, you've got your paper ready.

Everything is ready to go, right?" So you're really focusing on that, getting ready position, right furniture, right height, right seating.

And before, I mean, before you've even really taught anything, you've got more stability and you've decreased the possibility that all of these other factors are gonna contribute to the messy writing that you saw before.

So that's all good.

And then from that point on, you're going to do a series of little writing samples.

And each one of the samples is gonna allow you to test out some of those concerns, right? So it could be tracing and copying letters.

It can be low, short sentences.

It can be from dictation, anything where you identified in the first go round that this possibly is a problem.

And what you're doing here is you're trying to figure it out what helps.

So if the child was having difficulty with their grasp and they were using an adapter and it didn't seem to be helping you take it on and you try to correct and prompt it and just see if you can physically prompt the child to do it.

Can they hold it like that? If not, maybe you say, "okay, that's great, let's try tracing these two letters and this time you can use this squishy adapter, you lucky boy." And so, right.

So you're just trying to try some things out and see what works.


So you can, if you have noticed, when you did your observation, that the position of the adult was somewhat problematic, you can try some different things out.

And then when you're done, you'll be able to say to the other adults who might be often working with the child, this is the better position to be standing in.

But then you're also, you've learned it from doing it yourself and not just, you know, you're not just criticizing that you sat over here.

You're actually saying, you know, we've done a better practice with this, and it works better from here.

You check on prompting levels.

You can sort of get a sense of whether the child's gonna allow physical prompts or not.

What kind of prompts will be helpful.

And as you go along, you're gonna put your initials and the date on those samples and write the level of prompt.

So let's say that you have a word and you want the child to write the word to trace it first, and then to write it, you might want it to be an independent sample.

So that you can show here's where we started.

And then three months from now, if you do another identical independent sample, you'd be able to show that there was progress made, hopefully, right? Okay.

So questions about that I know that, yeah, somebody pointing out, we call that the help her hand, call it whatever you want, as long as you use the consistent language with the kids.

And I think that, you know, getting ready for writing position is good for everybody in the class.

It's not gonna hurt anybody to hear look, you know, Johnny's got, he's really in the right position to start writing.

You know and you can take it from there.

So any questions about this part, the actual direct work with the child is if you're a good teacher, you're gonna really enjoy this because it'll help you get to know the child better and help you focus on some of those areas that might be a little more difficult.

But on the other hand, it's difficult for me to say, this is the kind of sample you need, because you need to go from what you learned when you did your initial observation.


So once you've done that, so you've used the factor checklist, you've done your direct observation.

You've written your notes down.

And I think the next step is to just think, now you have some thinking to do.

I learned basically you learned whatever you learned from the child when you were doing both of these things.

And now you have to take a step back and say, what are the most important things to focus on? Now, some of them you might be surprised to learn, don't have anything to do with the writing.

You might have found out for example, that the child doesn't know the difference between upper and lower case letters.

So you might have learned that some of the pre-literacy skills he needed aren't yet present.

So or that the child doesn't know how to actually form all of the upper and lower case letters.

So you have to prioritize these to what you learned.

Sometimes it's about orientation.

Sometimes it's about the size of the letter.

In which case you might be experimenting with some different papers and different widths of lines, et cetera.

And once you decide what you feel is an important step, then you want to write IEP or individual plan, whatever they're called in your province objectives that will allow you to measure the change over time.

So you might say something like copying words correctly, using a tripod grasp 80% of the time for other five opportunities or whatever, right? Or being able to trace and copy letters, staying on lines within half into the lines or whatever.

And you can gear the IEP objectives specifically to what you want to work on there.

And then regardless of whether you use, I think you can reuse the checklist at different points, if you think it's helpful.

And, but the monitoring of it is usually done through work samples, because it's easier to see that change.

The only thing to remember is that what you're asking the child to do for the work sample has to always be the thing, right, 'cause otherwise you can't.

So if you're asking them to trace this little sentence or copy it, then it should be the same sentence or at least something similar.

So you can actually compare pre and post.


Now, I guess the summary is that these, these are pretty low tech ways to look at some of the teaching that might be needed, that might make things less stressful for students.

And I don't promise that it's to be all and end all, but it really helped me hammer down and task analyze some of the problems that the kids were having, and it gave me some initial direction to keep going.


So before I switched to that question, 'cause I know that came up before any questions related to what we've talked about so far.

- [Host] I'm seeing one question there Marlene I have the slides back now too, about whether or not this tool has been used with learners with needs and diverse learning needs other than ASD.

- Well, that's an interesting question.

I have only used it with children with autism, and I've only shared it with people who are working with children with autism.

But once I have shared it with others, I don't know who else has done it with other kids.

I particularly don't see any reason why you couldn't use the factor checklist.

Well, really the whole thing is just a way to guide your observation and help you focus in on some things that might be contributing.

So I don't see any particular reason why not, but if I only kind of gave birth to it a few years ago, so I don't know, this is the world premier, let's put it that way.

- [Host] Great, thank you.

- So I just have a few slides left.

This issue comes up frequently.

How long did you keep trying to teach kids to print, to write before you either abandon it or move to something that is an alternative? And one, I guess we, in terms of what we want kids to learn, I think we always wanna give kids an opportunity to learn, to read and to produce written work, to give them an opportunity to learn that they may not all be able to learn that, but we certainly wanna give them an opportunity.

But if we have a student where you've been really focusing on that and trying to develop those skills over a long period of time, the child's level of frustration is very high.

The behaviors around it are not dissipating, and you've tried lots of different approaches to try and make it less frustrating for the child.

Then I think it should be discussed with the parents as to whether or not to continue or to begin to look at some adaptations.

And sometimes kids learn to type much more easily than they do handwriting, even if they're non verbal.

So I don't want to discourage people from using typing, but I think in terms of parents, there's, it's a difficult decision because it's sort of a reminder that their child may not be able to do some of the things that others and that we, you know, we think is an important skill.

So it's that kind of a sensitive topic, but certainly if it's not being successful for the child, then, it certainly should be a point of discussion.

The other thing that I would wanna mention related to this is you have to think about the functionality, even if we're teaching handwriting per se.

And the question you wanna ask yourself is if I spend a lot of time and teach this child how to write, what is he gonna write? And when is he gonna write it? What is his purpose gonna be? So if you have a child who is learning how to write, but in all other aspects, academically, he's not able to be directly involved in some of those higher academic levels, you have to make sure that you're thinking of something that he could actually do.

Now you can copy type, data into data entry without ever being able to read it because it's just copying.

So there is a reason to work on tracing, copying, typing, but always ask yourself, what the child's gonna do with it, because that's the end goal.

And that's what you wanna be thinking about in the beginning.

The other piece in here is if you're going to go to an alternate route using other kinds of technology, iPad, laptop, communication devices, there's all kinds of things out there now.

You have to also think about where is it available? Can it be available both at home and in school, is there training available? So it's a larger picture and it's a larger decision.

So whenever something like that comes up, make sure that you're really having a good, thorough discussion around it.

We're not gonna touch on every aspect here, but, and I hope that comes to your, answers your question from before.

I think functionality for the student is a top priority.

And yeah, so sometimes of course, kids have other physical limitations, delays, handedness or other factors that can contribute to that.

In some cases, physical limitations might mean you start typing much earlier or a communication device much earlier that you never would use pencils.

So there's a lot to consider depending on the child themselves.

Okay, so to finish up here, I just came across a few resources that I thought he might be interested in as you know, the internet is just a wash with all kinds of stuff.

So you may have other resources, but I came across a few that I thought you would be interested in.

So this one is a video model.

Well, it's a video on YouTube that was created by in the UK.

So this lovely lady with a really nice accent and she modeled very slowly and very carefully, how you hold your pencil, how you write, left-handers ,right-hand, it's very clear.

And if you have a child who does well with video modeling, I think I would definitely try it myself.

I haven't tried it, but I think it would be helpful.

There are several places online where you can create your own writing paper.

So if you're trying to explore different types of writing paper, different widths, this is just one of them, but there's many online and, you know, rather than have to buy expensive papers, to just try it out, you might wanna create your own and then go from there.

This link is really kind of cool because it puts up one letter at a time and it shows you visually how you draw the letter.

Now I know there's lots of iPad apps that do that kind of thing, but this one is free and no iPad needed.

And then Super Duper Inc has all kinds of paper I'm sure you're familiar with that.

This one, I think just kind of sum things up for me.

No single intervention has enough research to qualify as an evidence-based intervention.

Now they are, since 2011, there's been sort of a groundswell of new research looking at more specifically at the language issues related to writing and ASD.

There's also been some more research on handwriting without tears related to ASD and I have a separate resource list if you're interested in that.

But right now, the, even the self-regulated strategy development, there's a fair amount of research there, but none of the, to qualify as evidence-based, it's pretty strict criteria.

So right now we don't, we can't say that anything, you know, any particular intervention has that, or at least that I'm aware of that has that go to.

This one I wanted to mention because it's brand new book in 2016 and you can purchase it online.

It's fairly inexpensive, I guess it's about $50, but you pay for it online.

You can download it one minute later, and there's some really good chapters in there.

And in particular, this chapter on supporting the writing skills of individuals of ASD there's a really good overview of assistive technologies that I think you might find quite interesting.

So we're just beginning, we're just beginning period to understand how all these different components of writing may contribute to the behaviors we see, not just with children with autism, but probably with other children as well.

And I'm excited to be able to share this assessment.

If you find it useful, feel free to share it.

And I would love to have feedback if you go through and you find something that you think is way off track or something you think should be added, I'd love to hear back from you in the future.

And thank you all for joining.

I know that there's lots of ways that you could be using your time, so I appreciate it.

Serving Children & Youth Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing/Blind or Visually Impaired