Today, I want to share a learning strategy that I put together to help Josh with his handwriting and another that I employed in order to help him with subtraction. My hope is that these strategies will help other children whether or not they have autism and/or whether or not they are homeschooled. You will also find these strategies in the form of free printables at the end of this post.
Learning Strategy for Handwriting
When my boys entered second grade (while still attending elementary school), there was a tremendous difference in their handwriting. While still not perfect, Jack had learned to write his name across a straight line and to minimize the size of his lettering. However, Josh was having a hard time with this. It didn’t help that he just hated writing and still does. His lettering was huge and it often drifted far below or above a given line.
Halfway through his semester, Josh’s handwriting was becoming a concern with his resource teacher who informed me that he needed help getting Josh to practice his writing. I began watching Josh as he would write words and tried to get him to make the lettering smaller and to write as straight as he could. We tried tracing letters first which he did well but he was having trouble translating the same letters without the tracing. This was becoming painfully frustrating to the both of us. I just wanted to give up and he was shutting down quickly.
Then I came up with the idea of boxing his letters. I thought what if I get him to print a letter in a box and then gradually shrink the box. I quickly got onto my word processor and began creating grids of varying sizes from large to small. Starting with the largest grid, I had him practice his name as well as complete any writing assignments that were due. I also made copies of these grids to give to his resource teacher. I explained how I was using these grids and he agreed to implement them in class.
It didn’t take long before we saw some improvement. Josh liked the grids and he was able to keep his lettering in the boxes. Over time I got him to write smaller and smaller with each new grid. Eventually, we took him off the grids when he was able to write his words at a reasonable height and on the lines without drifting. Unfortunately, I don’t have any old samples of his work but as you can see from the pic, his handwriting is pretty spot on.
Now if you want to create these grids, it is quite simple. Using Microsoft Word, just add a table and format the size of each column and row. I have also provided free printables of this learning strategy at the end of the post if you prefer not to create it yourself.
Learning Strategy for Math
Josh also had a hard time when it came to subtracting double digits. He understood subtraction but once he didn’t have enough fingers to begin with, he started getting frustrated. Mind you, we used manipulatives which was a great start but was very time consuming. He had to count his starting amount, then count out what he was removing, and then count out the result. He did this with every problem and so our days were getting long. I tried to wean him off of these, but he would put up a fight. I figured the next best strategy would be a number line. So, again, I got on my word processor and created a number line from 1 to 20. I added small dots above each number so that he could place his finger at the start number and then move and count backwards. This did the trick until he miscounted and crumpled up the number line. Lucky for me I saved the number line, reprinted it and this time I laminated it.
So for the next few weeks, he continued to use the number line and realized what a great help it was on his assignments and tests. It also helped that the now laminated number line was crumple-proof. I never weaned him off the number line. One day I just happen to notice that he was working his subtractions problems without it. In fact, he is quicker than I when it comes to calculating answers to subtraction problems.
Again, this is a simple number line that anyone can make by hand or if you like to get fancy, with a word processor. To save you time, I have also provided a free printable of this number line at the end of the post. Just remember to print it out in the ‘landscape’ orientation.
I hope these strategies help and please note that the writing grids can also be used for children learning how to write their name.