Anecdote: Memory Problem or Sensory Issue

Nadia Shanab | Uncategorized
25 Nov 2013

I used to work with a student who was obsessively writing letters, numbers, and symbols in the air using her index. I was so puzzled about this behavior, because it didn’t look appropriate in other poeple’s eyes. My idea was to help her use another medium to write on that looked more appropriate and channel her obsession at the same time. I offered her a little white board, that I usually carry around, to write on instead of writing in the air. It worked just fine until writing on the white board itself became another obsession. Actually, the white board was a perfect replacement since the marker slides and glides easily on it to keep up the speed of writing in the air.

We all wondered why would the child need to write obsessively in the air or on the board? My personal interpretation was that it is a sensory integration issue of being understimulated, and that the writing helps the child regain her natural sensory balance.

Finally, I found an explanation from a boy with autism that made a lot of sense to me. The boy suggests that some individuals with autism struggle with their poor memory. To solve the problem of remembering things in their mind, they choose to write it down, because it takes a visual form that is much easier to visualize and memorize, “The Reason I Jump”.

Why not? We do exactly the same thing throughout the day:

  • we have post-it notes everywhere
  • we add memory to our computers
  • we write notes on our cell phones, iPads,…
  • we add reminders and appointments on the calenders
  • we take pictures of goods in the stores to be able to compare it with others later on

The only difference is that we have options that are conventional/appropriate to everyone, while a child on the autism spectrum is unable to express herself and her needs.


If you happen to come across this behavior, encourage your child to use another alternative. Make sure to diversify the mediums until you find out what the most convenient one for her is.

There is so much to learn from individuals on the autism spectrum.

nadia shanab

Tags: , , , , , , , ,