Sometimes there is just a rule

Working with a 12yo on a writing assignment recently, we got into a discussion about word use. He wanted to use colloquialisms, contractions, and pronouns without first explaining what he was referring to. For example, the assignment was to review a TED talk and respond in a paragraph to a question posed by the teacher. The teacher referred to the speaker using his name and my student wanted to start his paragraph with a sentence along the lines of He has no flippin idea what he’s gonna do at first. While it is great that my learner had heard and understood the content of the TED talk, his rudimentary vocabulary choices were not appropriate to this audience. All new writers struggle with the transition between speaking and writing, but for many students with Autism, this transition is a mystery. In particular, if the act of using their hands to type or write is overly challenging from a motor planning perspective, tools like voice to text offer a great work around. The problem is that now the writer IS speaking the words so what on earth do we expect him to think about writing? Enter the title of this post. I have established with this learner that sometimes there are just rules about life. He does’t have to like it, but writing is not like talking. When writing we have to always assume that the reader has no prior knowledge so we have to spell out everything, even if it small. It is best to use our most sophisticated vocabulary because the words we have written are the only way this person will know who we are. And even though it adds a step/letters/work, we do not use contractions in formal academic writing. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, which I will teach him as we continue to work together but for now, he is learning to live with Sometimes there is just a rule.