Teaching Writing to Nonverbal Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Nonverbal students are sometimes still capable of learning to read and write, but there are specific challenges involved. This lesson discusses what it means to teach writing to nonverbal students.

Working with Nonverbal Students

As a teacher of students with autism, Kim knows that once in a while, she will have a nonverbal student, one who does not communicate in language.

Kim's best friend, Elise, another special education teacher, tells Kim that she has a nonverbal student this year, though this student does not have autism. Elise has never encountered such a child before and feels like she does not know where or how to start.

Kim tells Elise that writing can be a really good way for nonverbal students to express themselves, and Elise is shocked. How can someone who cannot talk learn how to write?

Kim realizes that she has a lot to teach Elise about teaching writing to nonverbal students.

Fine Motor Work and Handwriting

First of all, Kim explains to Elise, it is important to think about the fine motor skills involved in writing; in other words, to think about how the student holds a pencil and controls his hands and fingers.

Sometimes, nonverbal students have no problems with handwriting, but other times, verbal struggles are comorbid with graphomotor difficulties. When this is the case, Kim explains, it might be helpful to have the child work with an occupational therapist.

Also, these students can benefit from tracing letters, copying letters and words others have written, and working on drawing simple shapes and objects with adult supervision.

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