When I first started blogging with my class in 2008, I thought it would be a bit of fun and a good way to communicate with parents.
Over the years, I have come to realise that the benefits are much more than this and the more benefits I unravel, the more I am encouraged to make blogging a priority in my classroom.
I have written about the benefits of blogging here, but this diagram (which is not exhaustive) summarises just some of the key benefits.
I have recently been reflecting on another benefit for certain students, after a number of discussions with parents.
A parent’s perspective
Over the past few years I have taught a number of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and observed how much a number of them enjoyed blogging.
One parent recently explained to me why she thinks blogging works for her son who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Blogging has helped with his social skills, as not only does he interact with me whilst writing comments, replies and now posts he also has to think of appropriate ways to respond to questions, comments and the post. He also has a structure that he follows starting off with complimenting, which he struggles with due to his ASD, but since blogging I have seen an improvement. He then looks at the information they have written and tries to think of a way to engage the other person, this is also hindered by ASD, but again I have seen an improvement.
Pragmatic Language Difficulties
Blogging allows him to be social without having to take pragmatic language into account, it also allows him to practice his skills in a non-threatening manner (not in front of others).
Blogging has given him a way to engage with others as they speak to him at school about what he has written and give him praise about being a good blogger which helps with his confidence.
He has also been able to put social skills into practice when assisting others with blogging.
In a similar way, I have seen students without ASD but who are simply shy, quiet or lacking confidence really blossom through having a blog or working on the class blog. Students who have previously gone somewhat “under the radar” have found their voice and developed confidence by being a blogger.
While some people may be quick to say that blogging and online social media can inhibit social skills, I see blogging as a terrific starting point. It can help certain individuals to practice their skills and transfer them into the “offline world”.
There is no denying that they way we approach blogging in our class is highly structured and I think this works well for many students with ASD (and many other students). One example of this is the way we teach and encourage quality commenting which I see as contributing to the high standard of literacy skills my students are demonstrating.
Note – I am not claiming to be an expert with ASDs or suggesting all individuals with ASD would respond to blogging but for a number of students I have taught, I have found it to be an effective tool that is well worth pursuing.
Have you had any experience working with students with ASD and technology?
What do you think about using online technologies to develop offline skills?