Making Writing Fun For An Autistic Child Who Struggles With Spelling And Language

I like writing. I like it a whole lot. My job is to write at SAYS and for fun I write on this stupid blog. It’s my job and my hobby omg I’m such a loser. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Now that I’m an adult, I still want to be a writer. Ayub does not want to be a writer.

The kiddo only learned how to recognise the individual letters of the alphabet when he was 6 years old. He could sing the song, but it just hadn’t clicked for him that each letter you sang, represented a letter (and sound) that you write.



I am the worst teacher in the world

It was a struggle and I got very agitated when I tried to teach Ayub. I’m kind of an asshole. The kind of asshole that doesn’t study or do homework but still gets an ‘A’ during the exam. That was me. I assumed that Ayub would be the same. But of course, he’s much cooler than me, so no. Ayub is not an asshole.

autistic child learning spelling

Ayub is kindness and love.

He would come home with homework when he was 6 years old. It would be three pictures with the word below and one missing letter. For example, the picture of a cat and below it: _ A T. Fill in the blanks. I would say “Cat, ‘ke’, ke-at. What letter sounds like ‘ke'”?

Ayub would be like… “A?” No. “B?” No… “L?” -_-

Eventually I would say “C-A-T”. And he would have no idea which letter ‘C’ is.

So, we would sing the alphabet while looking at the alphabet written out and point to each letter as we sang, until we reached the one we wanted to write. Does that make sense? Omg, it was the worst. It didn’t help that Mr Smartypants Sulaiman taught himself how to read when he was 3 and was always butting in and giving the correct answers and making Ayub feel bad.

Had to lock him away playing video games with Mr Ninja in the Man-Cave. Eventually I had to CREATE HOMEWORK for Sulaiman so he had something to do while Ayub did his homework. Annoying fella.

autistic child spelling journal

Here’s Sulaiman aged 2, dressed as Mickey Mouse for his end-of-year school concert just because.

Anyway I learned how to read when I was 7 or 8 so I wasn’t too bothered about Ayub not being able to at the age of 6.



His kindergarten teachers taught him the alphabet

I just can’t be a full-time homeschooler. Luckily Ayub and Sulaiman were attending the most amazing kindergarten in the world I love it so much it’s called Little Kingdom. His teachers eventually taught him how to recognise each letter individually. I don’t know how they did it. Probably drilled it into him. It was a Chinese kindy and they really focused on study. Seeing as he was weak in language, they decided not to teach him Mandarin, but would use that time to focus on English instead. Ayub was happy and loved and learning so it was fine with me.

autistic child spelling journal

Ayub aged 5 at the Little Kingdom year end concert (Fat Sulaiman on the left).

He still couldn’t read or spell but at least he could finally recognise the alphabet. Sometimes Ayub forgets how to write a certain alphabet even now, but it’s cool. Who needs capital ‘G’ and capital ‘Y’ anyway? Those are the ones he always struggles with.



The Dyslexia Association of Malaysia taught him how to read

A blessing that came from Ayub’s misdiagnosis of dyslexia was that we were introduced to the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia and they are the most wonderful people. Kind, caring, patient, and so supportive of their kids. They have a special way of teaching the kids how to read and write. Ayub ended up excelling there. Well, obviously because he’s not dyslexic.

dyslexia association malaysia

Sweaty Ayub on the left. Field trip to the park with the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia.

Eventually his teachers advised me to take him out of the centre because they were worried he wouldn’t be able to reach hisĀ  full potential there and may start to regress. He could read.

But he couldn’t write.



Starting a journal the Ayub way

In January 2017 I was all “Yaaaaas let’s set goals and make good habits and be awesome as a famileh!” That lasted about two weeks. But within those two weeks, the boys started journals and wrote in them every day.

One sentence a day, I told them.

Sulaiman’s journal lasted a bit longer and I should go look for it because it’s amazing. His entries were like, “Today I ate chicken.” “Today I ate noodles.” “Today I play phone.” “Today nothing happened.”

Ayub’s entries were such a struggle to get on paper. I’d ask him what he wanted to write. And his answer was either “I don’t know” or a jumble of words and no coherent thought. Thank Emma for speech therapy.

At the same time, Ayub started attending Acton KL and his first ever sprint was to write a journal.

Spelling is hard but Click n Spell has made it easier

Thank you Acton KL guides for introducing Ayub to Click n Spell. It’s an online spelling program. Ayub can’t learn in a class. He can’t listen in a group setting. Too many distractions make it near impossible for him to consume information, let alone retain it.

Online learning has served Ayub well. Just him, his computer, and his headphones. No people. Gamification. It’s good for him.

I like to give the kids words to spell just for fun. I start with really simple ones like “cat”, “hug”, and all our names. Until they keep asking for harder words. This is what happened with Ayub last month:

Ayub: Mama I’m so good at spelling now. Give me a word I will spell for you.

Me: Ok. Spell ‘school’

Ayub: S-H-O-O…

Me:

Ayub: C-L!

Me: Well, you got all the letters. Good job. Spell ‘mosque’

Ayub: M-O-S-K.

Me: Lol. Close enough.

Ayub: All your words are too hard. I will pick a word. I will spell ‘coconut!’

Me: Ok.

Ayub: C-O-C-U-N-T

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Cocunt. Ok, still a way to go with Ayub. But he gets the general idea.



This post is getting way longer than I anticipated

Look, all I wanted to do was show you Ayub’s kick-ass journal about programming. I gave you a whole backstory instead. Sorry.

autistic child spelling journal

I am so proud of him and all the work he put into this journal. At first he was so stressed talking about having to complete a journal. He imagined it would have to be filled with lots of text and writing. BUT JOURNALS ARE SO FUN OMG. So here are some of the things we added to make writing fun!

Diagrams:

This is his diagram of a motherboard.

autistic child spelling journal

Flow charts:

Explaining computer algorithms and the process of debugging.

autistic child spelling journal

Mindmaps:

Talking about how to use computer programming as a form of entertainment and not simply to create entertainment.

autistic child spelling journal

Discussing the perils of internet addiction. Also, note the picture of Sulaiman being addicted to the Internet.

autistic child spelling journal

Numbered lists:

Using the internet wisely and internet safety.

autistic child spelling journal

Comics:

“Computer Jokes That’s Funny.” It’s funny because it’s not funny. (And also grammatically incorrect).

autistic child spelling journal

Clouds:

Just a bunch of words written really big to fill up the last page.

autistic child spelling journal

His spelling isn’t the best but that’s why we have autocorrect

Those squiggly red lines on MS Word used to be our saviour back in school, now tech just does it for us. And even if it doesn’t, who cares. Well, not me anyway. I only roll my eyes at bad grammar when it comes from a creative agency, ad agency, media agency, or directly from a client. (Just like to take the time to thank all my wonderful friends who have been so kind to screenshot my typos on Ninja Housewife and send them to me I love you guys so much that is so sweet and thoughtful that you proofread these posts because God knows I never do).

Ayub is SUPER proud of his journal. Every page is precious to him. He goes through it over and over again, telling you what he wrote and why and how.

autistic child spelling journal

I am so proud of you Ayub I love you so much!

He wanted me to take a picture of the back because apparently it’s really cool but I don’t get it.

autistic child spelling journal



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Laila Zain

Laila is a working mama who married young, had two beautiful boys, went through a shitty divorce, met an amazing man, remarried, and had a beautiful girl. Her eldest boy is a rainbow baby and special needs child. Her second is ridiculously smart. Her baby is a baby.

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