How I use writing to help my son practice decision making skills.
If you are a parent of a child with Aspergers, I don’t need to explain how decision making can lead to meltdowns. For my son with his black and white thinking–seeing the gray is difficult.
One of our educational goals for my son is to handle decision making in a timely manner and with fewer meltdowns. It turns out that our WriteShop writing lessons served not only to hone writing skills but also to develop mature decision making skills. After using the steps I outline below, my son is finally able to start a writing lesson independently without any emotional turmoil.
Knowing how stressful a writing session can become, we might only complete writing once or twice a week. I never want to do writing when either of us are tired or the day has already had challenges, especially since deciding a character name or the setting can lead to a meltdown.
I have been using WriteShop for the past 4 years in my homeschool. My two favorite parts of the program are the games and the worksheets. My son loves to beat me in a game, so having one with each lesson in WriteShop Junior Book E engages him to learn.
Decision Making Steps:
- I start each writing lesson with a game since I have found it helps transition us into writing and allows us to start lessons in a calm mood.
- After the game I introduce the writing assignment with a brainstorming page. I keep reminding him that he can do this. There is not a wrong answer. I am here to help.
- I have learned to walk away at this point and give my son time to think. I used to try and engage the outbursts of “I can’t” while he stares at the blank page. The more I would push my son to make decisions quickly the faster he would meltdown.
- After a few moments I will return and see if he has made the first decision which is usually the setting of his story. I will then do a quick summary of choices for setting based on the lesson. Remind him again there are no wrong answers.
- I will return again after a few moments and ask him what he is thinking…if he is close to having a meltdown I will pick two choices for him and have him choose one or the other, but he has to make the choice.
- I will repeat the process as he continues making the necessary decisions for his writing assignment.
The worksheets in the Junior Writer’s Notebook provide him a framework to help him make decisions. Staging the Setting is a notebook page we use often. Since my son doesn’t draw well, often we print a photo from the internet and tape it on the page.
Again, labeling feelings can be difficult for my son. I keep the How Do I Feel notebook page close by. Then he has a list of emotions to choose from.
Recently his writing has progressed and we have utilized the Planning the Plot page.
Last week I almost cried with happiness during our writing lesson. For the first time, instead of melting down, my son opened his writing notebook, selected the setting page, and began filling it out.
We celebrated that small step toward his goal!
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