Tag Archives: Handwriting and autism

Toilet Training For Preschool And Stuck in Neutral? Here’s Why…..

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Many of my clients are in a rush to get their kid trained in the next few weeks for school. They have been making some headway over the summer, but things can stall out half-way through.  Here are some common reasons (but probably not all of them) why kids hit a plateau:

  1. They lose that initial boost of excitement in achieving a “big kid” milestone.  Using the potty isn’t an accomplishment now, it is just a chore.
  2. Parents and caregivers aren’t able to keep up the emotional rewards they need.  It is hard to be as excited about the 10th poop in the potty as the first time.
  3. The rewards used aren’t rewarding anymore.  A sticker or a candy might not be enough to pull someone away from Paw Patrol.
  4. An episode of constipation or any other negative physical experience has them worried.  Even a little bit of difficulty can discourage a toddler.
  5. Too many accidents or not enough of a result when they are really trying can also discourage a child.
  6. Using the potty is now a power play.  Some kids need to feel in control, and foiling a parent’s goal of toileting gives them the feeling that they are the ones running the show.  “I won’t” feels so much better than “I did it” for these kids.
  7. Their clothes are a barrier.  When some families start training, it is in the buff or with just underwear.  Easy to make it to the potty in time.  With clothes on, especially with button-top pants or long shirts, it can be a race to get undressed before things “happen”.
  8. They haven’t been taught the whole process.  “Making” is so much more than eliminating.  Check out How To Teach Your Child To Wipe “Back There” and The Ten Most Common Mistakes Parents Make During Toilet Training for some ideas on how to teach the whole enchilada.

Should you pause training? The answer is not always to take a break.  I know it sounds appealing to both adults and kids, but saying that this isn’t important any longer has a serious downside.  If your child has had some success, you can keep going but change some of your approaches so that they don’t get discouraged or disinterested.  If your child really wasn’t physically or cognitively ready, those are good reasons to regroup.  But most typically-developing kids over 2 are neurologically OK for training.  They may need to develop some other skills to deal with the bumps in the road that come along for just about every child.

Sometimes addressing each one of these issues will move training to the next level quickly!  Take a look at this list and see if you can pick out a few that look like the biggest barriers, and hack away at them today!

For kids with low muscle tone, including kids with ASD and SPD, take a look at my e-book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone.  Read Why Low Muscle Tone Creates More Toilet Training Struggles for Toddlers (and Parents!) to understand why I wrote this book just for you!   

I give parents clear readiness guidelines and tips on everything from the best equipment, the best way to handle fading rewards, to using the potty outside of your home.  It also includes an entire chapter on overcoming these bumps in the road! To learn more about what my e-book can do for you, read The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone: Potty Training Help Has Arrived!

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Teaching Handwriting To Kids with ASD

Handwriting still matters, and it matters just as much to kids on the spectrum. Teaching handwriting to kids that have difficulty focusing and that learn better with individualized instruction can be a challenge for any teacher, including special education teachers in a self-contained classroom.  For teachers in an integrated classroom, it can be an overwhelming struggle.

Some kids with ASD are even discouraged from working hard to improve their handwriting.  It sounds unbelievable to think of educators discouraging learning a foundational skill, until you talk to teachers. They are pressured to prep for standardized testing and need to show progress in math, social skills and behavior management.  Handwriting instruction just doesn’t seem to be that big a priority.  Some teachers will say  “Well, he will be keyboarding next year, and maybe he could use voice recognition software soon.”   Often what they are thinking is that they mostly use worksheets and writing programs that they were never trained to use, let alone adapt for these students.  They have minimal staff who can teach keyboarding and software use.  They don’t know how to improve a child’s handwriting when they don’t know how to teach it well to begin with.  What they need is a method to teach handwriting that can adapt to each child’s needs.

My answer is the Handwriting Without Tears program, adapted to be learned slowly and with more repetition.  Children with ASD can have any of the other struggles that are seen as impediments to handwriting:  poor pencil grip, difficulty with visual-spatial skills, poor bilateral (two-handed) coordination, etc.  The colorful and abundant lines of Fundations will fail the kids that cannot focus and aren’t able to incorporate the imagery they offer.  Tree, grass and airplane lines are hard to keep straight and translate onto a page.  Top, middle and bottom are concrete and simple phrases.  Worksheets that bounce back and forth between a single baseline and two or three or even four lines are confusing. Connecting the dots?  Don’t get me started on how poor a choice that is for kids who micro-focus and miss the big picture.

HWT workbooks and concepts are simple, and the principles of good writing are clearly said by the teacher and repeated directly and indirectly all the way through to cursive.  It turns out that cursive might even be easier for some of these kids to master. Their simple form of cursive is so much like printing that they can possibly use it by the end of second grade.

Take a look at this handwriting program (you can get free downloads on their website!) and consider the possibility that handwriting could get a lot easier for kids with ASD when the curriculum supports them well.