Many college students with Asperger’s need assistance with writing assignments. Whether it is for a writing intensive course or for an essay in a basic undergraduate class, the following often occurs:
- Students write too little. Students often presume professors will infer from their most basic of communications what the student intends and, as a result, leave out details.
- These details, of course, are what professors want to read.
- Students write too much. Students are sometimes uncertain what professors want to read and end up throwing everything – including the kitchen sink – into the document. This especially happens when students are writing about a topic that has personal interest to them.
- Students with Asperger’s Disorder sometimes cannot predict what professors want to read in a writing assignment. This creates difficulties with emotional regulation, during which students may avoid the assignment or have an emotional meltdown.
Students can more easily complete writing assignments when provided clear instructions about the structure of an assignment and relevant examples. A template is often helpful. The following is such a template, used to help a student assigned with writing a paper for a History class.
Please note: The examples provided were not related to the assignment. They were merely examples.
Answer the question given as directly as possible in the first sentence and then in the second sentence list 3-4 reasons that support your answer. (These 3 -4 reasons will be explained in the body of the essay)
- Paragraph 1: First sentence—state the first reason from the introduction paragraph that supports your answer. Then in the next 5-8 sentences explain in detail this reason and how it contributes to your answer. Give examples.
- Paragraph 2: First sentence— state the second reason from the introduction paragraph that supports your answer. Then in the next 5-8 sentences explain in detail this reason and how it contributes to your answer. Give examples.
- Paragraph 3: First sentence— state the third reason from the introduction paragraph that supports your answer. Then in the next 5-8 sentences explain in detail this reason and how it contributes to your answer. Give examples.
- Paragraph 4:— First sentence— state the fourth reason from the introduction paragraph that supports your answer. Then in the next 5-8 sentences explain in detail this reason and how it contributes to your answer. Give examples.
- *Only include a fourth paragraph if you have 4 reasons in your introduction paragraph.
Conclude the essay by summarizing your essay in a brief 3-4 sentences or by comparing and contrasting to the answer you did not choose.
Example Essay Question and Essay Format:
“Which Side of the American Civil War Developed and Executed a better overall Strategy to Win the War, Relative to Assets and those of the Enemy?”
The North executed a better overall strategy to win the war. They executed a better overall strategy because of the Anaconda Plan, the Naval Blockade, their Leaders and Generals, and their Resources.
- Paragraph 1: The Anaconda Plan helped the North execute a better overall strategy. The Anaconda Plan is…. (then continue with 5-8 sentences explaining The Anaconda Plan and how it contributed the Union’s win over the south) Give at least one specific example.
- Paragraph 2: The Naval Blockade really helped the Union with their strategy to win the Civil War, as well. The Naval Blockade… (then continue with 5-8 sentences explaining the Naval Blockade and what it did for the Union) Give at least one specific example.
- Paragraph 3: The North’s Leaders and Generals really positively contributed to their win over the Confederates. The leaders who really stuck out were… (then list the leaders and generals and explain what they did and what their strategies were for the North in at least 5-8 sentences) Be specific.
- Paragraph 4: The North had a number of resources which really helped contribute to the North’s strategy over the South. The resources were… (then list the resources and explain how they helped the North win over the South in 5-8 sentences) Once again, be specific.
In this paragraph compare and contrast the South’s strategy and to show why it did not work.
by Marc Ellison
Marc Ellison, Ed.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and an approved Licensed Professional supervisor (ALPS) who has worked nearly 30 years to provide person-centered support, services and advocacy to individuals who live with autism spectrum disorders, their families and those who support them. He has supported individuals with ASD throughout their lifespan, as they moved to the community from state-supported institutions, searched for and obtained employment, entered into relationships, and transitioned into college. Dr. Ellison is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, and a part-time professor at Marshall University.