Many autists have weak hands, poor coordination, and/or sensory issues making it difficult to hold a writing utensil. One clue is a refusal to use a spoon/fork. You may think he only likes finger foods; however, his ulterior motive may be that he only eats what does not require using utensils. A second clue is no interest in scribbling by 18 months. If you see these two early warning signs, consider it a red flag that you'll need therapy to strengthen those hands and fingers before he will want to color, draw and write. Don't worry, you don't have to go anywhere or spend a ton of money. If you have a kitchen table and some play dough, you can do it!
If your child has an aversion to play dough, start by simply getting him to touch it; to poke it. Weeks may pass before he is even willing to do this, so practice everyday, until he does. Play dough is wonderful because you can either purchase it ready to go or you can make your own and even add oils that can change the scent. This may encourage him to handle the play dough. Always use soft dough for play.
Once your child is okay with play dough, form a ball sized for little hands. Ask him to squeeze it in his fist. Don't be alarmed if he doesn't quite have the required strength. Next, form a ball, set it on the table and ask him to press it, palm down, flat, on a table. Once again, if he is not strong enough, don't be surprised. You have clearly identified what you need to work on! Last, have him poke a formed ball hard enough to make a hole with each finger and thumb. Do these activities daily, consistency is always key, and increase the number of times that he squeezes, presses, and pokes each day until he has mastered the tasks. Your next job is to increase his play time with the dough so he can mold, shape, stretch, rub, pick, squish, and get his little fingers moving and build strength.
|we made hair for our animals|
Other activities include using (washable) water color and paintbrushes on his plastic animals, squeezing squishy balls, using a Leapster, teaching him to use the mouse on a computer, 'painting' the house outside with a bucket of water and a large brush. All of these activities continue to build those muscles while improving coordination and they give him control over the type of media he is using.