Organization for Autism Research

Research Review: A Writing Strategy for Students with Autism


December 13th, 2010 | (0)


Writing can be especially hard for children with autism spectrum disorders.  Their deficits in motor skills, imagination, and organization paired with literal thinking makes writing instruction feel like a daunting task.  In Planning Instruction and Self-Regulation Training: Effects on Writers with Autism Spectrum Disorders researchers taught three elementary school aged boys a strategy for writing stories that has worked well with students who have learning disabilities.

The writing strategy uses the mnemonics POW and WWW What-2 How-2.  POW addresses the steps before writing and stands for “Pick my ideas, Organize my notes, and Write and say more.”  WWW What-2 How-2 addresses the parts of the story and stands for “Who are the main characters? When does the story take place? Where does the story take place? What do the main characters want to do? What happens when the main characters try to do it?  How does the story end?  How do the main characters feel?”  Over a series of lessons, each study participant was taught to memorize and use the mnemonic.  Researchers gave each individual a picture prompt and asked them to write a story.

Researchers examined not only the number of elements included in the story, but also number of words and overall quality.  Students were also asked to write a personal narrative to test generalization.  Each participant increased number of words, story elements, and overall quality of story writing after learning the strategy.  Almost all participants generalized the mnemonic and increased quality of personal narratives.

This is a relatively easy intervention to teach students with ASD within the classroom or at home.  It works with the strengths of individuals to make them better writers.

Asaro-Saddler, Kristie and Bruce Saddler (2010). “Planning Instruction and Self-Regulation Training: Effects on Writers with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Exceptional Children. 77.1 (2010): 107-124.

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