OT Corner: Teaching Kids with Autism and Other Disabilities to Type

[Source:  Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips]
by Anne Zachry, OTR/L
When teaching students with disabilities to type, I’ve found that it’s best if I teach them to type words or phrases that are meaningful to the student. For example, I worked with a student this past school year who was not one bit interested in typing, but he absolutely loved theraputty. He had been practicing typing his name for several weeks, but I couldn’t get him interested in the task. Solution: I taught him to type “I want putty.”


I started by printing out the letters I- w-a-n-t -p-u-t-t-y on card stock. I cut out the individual letters and laminated them. Then I made the sentence using the letter squares and cut out a rectangular strip of poster board long enough to hold all of the letters. I used Velcro to individually attach each letter in order to the poster board.

I removed all of the letters and place the sentence strip just below the computer screen (see above).  While the student sat in front of the keyboard, I held each letter close to it’s corresponding key and instructed him to press that key saying, “type I.” Once the student correctly typed the letter, I placed that letter in the correct spot on the sentence strip, and then I praised him and pointed to the letter on the screen and said “Great job, you typed an I!”  I continued with the task until he had typed the full sentence. We then read the sentence aloud together. After that, he had an opportunity to play with the putty as a reward for a job well done!

My goal is that I can eventually place the sentence strip in front of the screen and the student will type the sentence independently. It may take some time, but he’ll get there!

Featured Contributor: Dr. Anne Zachry, OTR/L PhD
Dr. Anne Zachry is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 18 years experience providing quality OT to children, along with caregiver instruction and support. She has a PhD in Educational Psychology. She’s had articles published in her profession’s trade magazine and in peer-reviewed journals. She is currently employed as a school therapist, working with students having issues ranging from mild fine motor problems to severe physical disabilities.
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