Writing and Autism: Return to a Past Topic

Two years ago, I posted on the topic of "Writing and Autism" because teachers and students were asking me for suggestions to improve grades on written assignments. I posted two entries, and then redirected people to the Tameri Guide for Writers, which my wife and I maintain. Many of the issues I might address for students with ASDs and other challenges were similar to what I observe for most students. Something about the way we teach writing in the K-12 system fails to prepare students, and students with disabilities struggle a bit more with writing.

My doctoral dissertation raised questions about how well autistic students navigate academic writing, especially at the college level. The mandated first-year composition courses common in our universities carry a number of assumptions about what is "normal" and what is the "right" way to think about the world around us. Some of the classic scholarship in writing studies makes claims about thinking and problem solving that outright contradict the autistic/neurologically different experience. 

It is important to raise questions about what is "right" when academics make absolute assumptions about what constitutes higher-level thought and creativity. 
My first two posts can be read at:
Writing and Autism: Introduction
Writing and Autism: Organization 
Some of the issues with writing I might address include:
  • Lacking organization in essays and papers, often jumping from topic to topic without transitions
  • Assuming audience familiarity with information, generally assuming too much prior familiarity with the topic addressed
  • Emphasizing the personal instead of the general, leading to a "first-person" perspective when inappropriate to the genre
  • Failing to explain conclusions, again assuming readers share the author's experiences and views
  • Using figurative language poorly or incorrectly, an issue associated with "undeveloped" metaphorical thinking (and second language learners)

I posted on the first topic, organizing a paper

Again, thematic organization is not a unique problem: most papers I read at the college level have issues with organization and flow. If it helps, at least parents and students should realize "autism" is not the "problem" in most cases. Students struggle with academic writing and the "genre norms" we grade.

Please bear with me as I pause to consider how to address these topics in a blog. I do not want the blog to be overly academic — a style I generally dislike, anyway, when your intent is to inform the general public. The style of academic writing is something I found troubling among other autistics, too, so at least I'm not alone when I state that it feels "inauthentic" to me when I have to write an academic paper.

I'll be sure to mix some other topics in with the posts about writing, too. 


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