How long should you let your child dictate writing assignments?

How long should you let your child dictate writing assignments?As a parent of a child with autism who hates the feel of pencil on paper, this is an ongoing question I ask myself.  Am I handicapping him by allowing him to dictate his writing assignments?  Will he ever be able to write an essay on his own?  These are legitimate questions when you look at the big picture of your child’s education. No parent wants to make their child’s life harder by helping them  but you also have to realize that at some point that assistance is necessary. 

Lots of children with autism have a different auditory processing speed than typical children.  They hear what is being said to them but it takes a few moments for them to process it to answer correctly.  Writing becomes difficult for them because it is hard for them to process their thoughts then transfer those thoughts to paper. They get so bogged down in trying to get their ideas out of their brains and onto paper that their paragraphs are shorter.  The effort seems insurmountable to them.  This is where them dictating their assignments to you comes in handy. 

My favorite part of the  Writeshop curriculum is that they encourage you to let your child dictate their stories out loud as long as necessary.  The number one goal is that the child understand the writing process. WriteShop understands that children, especially boys, can struggle with getting their thoughts from their heads onto paper.  You will enjoy a better finished assignment if you just let their ideas flow. The theory is, as their confidence in writing increases as well as their knowledge, they will need to dictate to you less . For children with autism, this may come a bit later than average or not at all. At some point you may need to explore adaptive technology options.


If you go with a child’s developmental level , then he may very well still be dictating his work into high school. At some point, you need to transition them to doing it independently.  How you do this is just as important as the fact that you need to do it . You want the child to continue to feel successful in his writing attempts regardless of how it gets accomplished. There are certainly ways you can make the transition when your child is ready. The key is to not take these steps until he’s ready for more independence. As your child advances in developmental levels, you will see signs that he is ready to be more independent.

Transitions to help your child dictate writing assignments less

  • I always allowed Logan to type out his sloppy copy in addition to his final paper. I didn’t want his sensory issues of the pencil on the paper  to overwhelm him to the point where he shut down. It was easier for him to edit an already typed paper.  How he got to the finished product was inconsequential to me. 
  • Pre -writing , practice paragraph, and brainstorming were all dictated especially with learning new or difficult concepts.  It was more important that he make the cognitive connections to learn the writing concept than that he write it on his own.  I transcribed the answers for him on the whiteboard. He made much better connections when not worried about the actual writing. We were doing these things together anyway so what did it matter who wrote it down.
  • If it was a difficult sensory week or he was struggling with anything, then I transcribed his first draft .  He was still responsible for making the edits necessary then typing his rough draft to turn into me.  Sometimes it helped to take more time to learn the concepts and come up with a draft. I would rather move slower than anticipated than to work through frustration. Frustration is never your friend in Autismland.


In the grand scheme of homeschooling, let your child dictate his assignments to you as long as he needs to in order to be successful.  You should be much more concerned with his mastery of the writing concepts than who does the actual writing or typing.  You know your child better than anyone. Do what is best for him.  If it’s best that he dictate then dictate regardless of the age or grade. Don’t get caught up in thinking because your child is older that you he HAS to write his own paper. Logan became a much better writer than I ever thought possible using this method.  That makes all that typing worth it in the end. His success is my success. Remember, even slow progress is still progress.