My son has Asperger's syndrome, which is a mild form of autism that presents some challenges for him in terms of how he relates to people as well as some learning disabilities. Perhaps his most challenging learning disability is that he has a very difficult time with writing. This is especially true if he has to develop and work out an idea all on his own.
He is in the fifth grade so it is not like he is trying to work on massive essay projects, but when he is asked to describe in writing a passage he may have just read in a book he has a very difficult time doing it. Ofetn, he is unable even to complete a single pragraph, which leads to frustration on the teacher's part (he does have a very good teacher and this is not at all a criticism of her or his spec. ed. case manager) and Quincy feeling as if he has failed and let people down.
The main cause for his inability to write even a description of what someone else has written is his difficulty in organizing his thoughts in a way that they can be written down so as to make sense and follow a linear progression. To help him I have started journaling with him to get him used to just writing for the sake of writing and to help him learn ways that he can organize his thinking so that he can write.
Our first effort was very difficult because he resisted it (it is no surprise that he doesn't like to write), but also because he very quickly reached such a high state of anxiety over it that his hand shook, he was tearing up and simply could not even write a single word. I spent an hour and a half working with him and we finally managed to get a paragraph out (I let him select what he wants to write about)
The next time I let Quincy listen to music on his iPod and asked him to simply make me laugh. He started to become anxious again, but this time I told him that writing is about performing a series of small steps that add up to a big thing. I said just write the first word and then the next word and don't worry about the magnitude of the total project, but the simplicity of each step that adds up to the goal. I did this because the anxiety was coming in large part because he saw writing two paragraphs as a very big and challenging and difficult thing that would require a lot of effort and work to do. By breaking it down into pieces I was able to help him only focus on the piece that was immediately in front of him.
He managed to quickly (in about 15 minutes) write two paragraphs that were very funny (at least to his dad; I'm an easy audience) and, importantly, he had fun. It is still a challenge to get him to write, especially in school, but he is slowly learning to not view it as big and difficult.
This lesson has not been lost on me. It seems that every time I take on a new writing project--no matter if it is a magazine feature or a book--I am immediately overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. But then as I begin to bite into it I see my way through it and I identify the individual tasks that I have to do and I feel more at ease with the project.
After all, writing is not about the finished book, it is about the steps--mostly enjouyable--that are taken to get to that end.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.