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"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Helping an Autistic Child to Write a Letter

I have the best sister-in-law ever. She thinks of brilliant ideas for building relationships with my kids. Her place is the first stop on our Camp Bergenholtz trips. When she heard about our plans for Countdown to Camp Bergenholtz, she asked if she could join us in our activities, completing some of the projects at her house, while we do them at ours. If that wasn't wonderful enough, she came up with the idea that each of the kids would "mentor" her with the crafts, emailing questions and pictures back and forth, asking for suggestions and exchanging ideas...and building relationships.
She started off with Alex, my 20 year old autistic son. Here is the email she sent him.

Hi, Alex.  I need your help with the summer treat packets we are making today.  First, are we using the watermelon design or something else?  Also, what kind of goodies should I put inside? 

Thank you, Aunt Brenda

I had him read the email, but he was not able to make the leap to answer the question on his own. So, I had to help him by giving him some options of what people might expect for the answers.

I made two basic categories for him, toys and candy, which were reasonable answers to the question, and wrote them on slips of paper. I then made up slips of paper with possible things that fit in those categories.

First, just to get his mind thinking, I had him decide which of the two categories the items on the different slips of paper went under. He had no problem doing that.
Then I read the question to him again, and he then understood that he could pick from the possible items. We took one category at a time and he picked his favorite from the choices. Then we went to the second category and he picked a few more choices. He was having a great time with this activity.
I then left the slips of paper he had chosen on the table and showed him how Aunt Brenda had started the letter with his name, and that he should start his letter with her name, to let her know that the letter was for her.

I then had him read the question she asked again, and he answered by listing all the choices he had made. I then I showed him the wording of the question, "what kind of goodies should I put inside?"  I reminded him that the answer to a "what do you think I should put" question should be answered by "I think you should put", so he wrote that down. Then he listed all the things he had picked out before. Then I reminded him that he needed to put "in the goodie bags" because she needed to know where to put these things. Alex has difficulty with prepositional concepts so I was not surprised that I needed to help him add that to the sentence. Then I told him that he needed to tell her why that was his suggestion. He didn't know what I was asking him, so I needed to coach him on some possible answers, and I gave him a few including some ones that were silly, so I could see if he was really picking. He laughed at the silly ones so I could tell he was paying attention and he picked one and wrote that next. 
I then showed him how Aunt Brenda had concluded her letter and said that he needed to tell who the letter was from, so he added "love, Alex" which finished his letter.


Aunt Brenda-
I think you should put stickers, a rubber ball, pencils, chocolate,
Skittles, gummy bears in the goodie bags. They are what I like best.
Love,
Alex

Brenda wrote back:
Alex, thank you for the letter with those great ideas.  Now I know what goodies you all like and will make sure some of those favorites are in my treat packet.   When I am working on this project, I will send you a picture to get your opinion, okay?  But, the goodies inside will have to be a surprise!  Talk to you soon.

Love, Aunt Brenda


So, now we have another letter to write!

(A post about the summer treat packets coming up soon.)

6 comments:

  1. Very thoughtful and sweet!

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  2. What a wonderful support your baby sitter is to you. I love the letter writing activity.
    Blessings, Dawn

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    1. She is actually not a baby sitter, but my sister-in-law, or the kids' aunt. I am glad you liked the letter writing activity. Do you have writing difficulties with your students?

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  3. What a great aunt and a great activity you did to help him understand how to respond.

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  4. He sure does look like he was enjoying the activity. I love seeing our kids happy! I'm curious, how did you teach him to read, Phyllis? Bethany only knows a handful of sight words.

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    1. Yes, it does mean more when our special kids are happy, since they have such hard burdens to carry. Katie had difficulty with learning to read, so I went over material again and again with her and I had Alex on my hip at the time. By the time Alex was three he could read and spell quite well...I suppose a savant type skill.

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