Assistive or enabling? That is the question!

I was privy to an incident today in year 2 classroom that saw a small boy become so frustrated that he lashed out and physically injured another student and the teacher that had come to his aid. This is going to be something we all have to deal with. Violence is never ok and students and teachers should NEVER be placed in a situation like this where they may become injured.

The child in question has autism. What appears to have triggered this outburst was a writing task. A persuasive writing task to be specific. It was heavily scaffolded and brainstorming had occurred. The format was written on the board. The students just had to write.



This child was only able to communicate well after the event  that he couldn’t get his body to pick up the pencil then he placed his book in the bin and took himself to the store room to hide. No child should have to feel this amount of stress and pressure. Autism sucks! We can’t change this but we can offer support and teach strategies to cope. Provide enough opportunities for success so this child will be able to pick up his pencil.

My question to you is where is that line between assistive technologies such as dragon dictator or the use of a scribe and manipulation in the form of work refusal? Writing tasks have such huge impact on this child’s ability to cope. Should they be removed in favour of a computer? Does this enable the behaviour? What happens to the development of writing skills in the interim?



  1. I agree autism is so unique to every child. Your post reinforces the importance of getting to know our students well enough to notice their triggers and put in place appropriate measures to support them through the process of the task they need to do. Its not easy but we need to do our best as teachers to enable our students to do their best.

      1. That reminds me about our mindsets which one do we have in relation to dealing with special needs children. Fixed or growth? I have had firsthand experience with writing issues with my son. I used the computer and it helped him learn his spelling words better than trying to write them 4 times ever would. He enjoys typing, why not use computers or ipads to motivate them as this is easier for them to learn this way.

  2. I wonder how the teacher did not see this coming? We work with teachers/parents of children with Autism/Asperger’s alot and they know the triggers and the signs of when the child is not coping, and if a management plan is in place this child should not have reached the stage of a meltdown. Saying this, children with Asperger’s/Autism can have a meltdown without warning but if handwriting is such a stressor take it out of the equation.

    In my last prac we had a child with ASD in the classroom. He was incredibly intelligent, but like many ASD students did not like tasks that required handwriting. We simply put him on the computer to do the last part of the work, for example he had to take notes during brainstorming and then when it came to actually writing the text he was allowed to use the computers.

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