How to help a teen with English lessons?

My 15 yr old son has HFA. He goes to a special needs school and is doing great, apart from his English lessons. Even though he is at this school, he was getting held back with his Science and maths lessons compared to class mates.So for those lessons he goes to the normal secondary school in the same complex, a couple of hours a week and he is getting on great and enjoys it. But when it comes to English and other lessons where writing is involved, it's a disaster. He's struggles with writing stories, descriptions, his hand writing is only just readable, so how the heck he is doing so well in science is beyond me. His teachers seem to have given up on him, accusing of "putting on the autism act, because he can  skip off to his Haughton lessons happily and get them done". This was said between his teacher and a TA within earshot of my son and one of his class mates heard it as well. What has been said is out of order, but I know that this is getting frustrating for everyone especially with GCSE's coming up soon. Has anyone any advice on how to help my son? We are not sure if it's a psychological problem or if there is something wrong medically   Thank you to those who read this and thank you for any help you may be able to give.

  • It sounds like something that needs challenging, whatever you do. For what it is worth, there is a boy with autism in one of my English classes, and he definitely does have challenges with writing, both with coordination and with organising his ideas. Last year I showed him a colour code grid with which maybe he could organise a chaos of ideas into paragraph-size ideas. I did not want to fail him on the basis of non-completed writing tasks because I have noticed he retains my explanations for the grammar far better than the other children do, and he actually can and does speak English (as a foreign language). He is also a good team player, to use a horrendous cliche, in that he is always the first to offer to write a word for games of Hangman and so on - the other teens are too inhibited.

    Not to say I think don't he isn't occasionally lazy too. He surreptitiously reads his fantasy novels it plays games on his phone as much as I catch the others at it too.  I know he may have issues with self-organising, but it surely should not take him too long to get his books out of his bags! That is where the line is for me on how much typical adolescent laziness ends and autism begins.

    Luckily the school is more understanding that yours seems to be as I now know I don't have to test him on written work now, I need only test his comprehension on verbal understanding, which does lie within his abilities. He will have an extra year before it's time to do finals and will be able to use a computer to do his written work.

  • I always hated having to write stuff for school, in whatever subject. With maths, it was so easy that I could just write down the answers, but to write an essay was horrible, because it took time that I could spend doing more enjoyable things. I knew the rules of grammar just fine, but to actually sit down and write something seemed like an unsurmountable task. The worst thing was starting an essay. Once I got going, it was better, and now, as an adult,  I can write twenty pages or more at a single sitting. I think I just had no motivation to write anything, because I knew that I was good at maths, but I wasn't so sure about writing. I think that's an autistic thing, I never did anything until I was absolutely sure I could get it perfect, even as a small child. I didn't walk until I knew I could do it without falling down. Once I started walking, I never did fall down, or so my mother tells me.

    I think it's the same with your son. He needs to know that he can do something well before he will try it. It has to do with confidence. It's not laziness, but more lack of motivation. Since he doesn't have the motivation from within right now, it needs to come from the outside at first. To hear people accuse him of "putting on the autism act" is not going to help with that, as people on the spectrum are particularly sensitive to criticism. He needs to be encouraged and praised, with a gentle non-judgemental nudge in the right direction if he makes a mistake. Start with something easy to do, like maybe have him write about something he is interested in, and go from there. It seems that he is a bright individual, so he can do it. He just needs to know that he can do it.

  • This is an area I know nothing about, however, the Autism Education Trust website would seem a good place to start:

  • Something else. There is a new book published called Aspertools that had advice for teaching those who might get otherwise be less easy to teach. It is very hands-on, applicable to anyone for whom the cap fits, and full of ideas. I got it for free off NetGalley, but it should be on Amazon and Book depository now.

  • Hi Redzz,

    Aside from the suggestions already made, one thing I might recommend you do is to talk to the NAS Education Rights Service - -

  • Hi Redzz,

    Aside from the suggestions already made, one thing I might recommend you do is to talk to the NAS Education Rights Service - -

  • Hi Redzz,

    Aside from the suggestions already made, one thing I might recommend you do is to talk to the NAS Education Rights Service - - which can provide confidential advice and support around various areas of schooling for people with children on the spectrum, and help resolve differences between you and your child's school if you have them.

    Hope this is of some help,

    Ross - mod

  • *Update* 

    Thank you all who have replied. We had parents evening at school last night and got some great results. His maths and science lessons in the main stream school are going great, he's in top set for maths and at the moment his prediction is a grade 6. His science subjects individually are going great, he only scored 15/30 points on his biology test due to only joining the class at nearly the finish for that subject. He got 28/30 points for his chemistry test and we are awaiting the results of his physics test. And his hand writing was very clear compared to how he normally writes. He has a prediction score of grade 6 at the moment, but could go higher. Now, his English. I actually got to speak to his teacher for a change, normally you just get his form tutor. His teacher Mary started off by saying how proud she was of him and has great confidence in him passing his exam. She is going to give it until Autumn term and then we will decide if he does his English Literature exam or not. He doesn't have to do it. So in that case, we can concentrate on English language. We are trying to come up with ways of breaking down questions and answers. I mentioned that I had asked on here for some help, and she looks forward to hearing what people come up with. But all in all, she is determined to get him through it, same as me. As for the other problem, it is a discussion / complaint in progress. Again thank you, and please keep making suggestions on how to help. 

    Sue. X