Susan's Blog

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Keyboarding — Just the Write Type?

Jen sent me this article and I was intrigued and moved by the story. Over the years I have heard about autistic people learning to communicate via keyboarding, and I have heard the accompanying criticisms about it, the facilitated kind of typing. People have made FC seem like Ouija board of autism therapies, where you don’t know if it is the student’s actual thoughts or is it the teacher guiding his hand. I have discounted FC for this reason.

That kind of doubt is understandable, of course, but what about the cases where the child learns how to type on his own, like DJ in the Ralph Savarese book, Reasonable People? Clearly this is an approach that warrants another look, not because it “de-auticizes” people (NancyBea’s term), but because it gives people a medium for expression. As I sit here typing on Precious and my own thoughts and feelings are exploding through my fingers, I am wondering how I could have dismissed this. And I am wondering how to start working on it with Nat. Nat hates typing. But, Nat already types very well; he sends me emails regularly from school. At first reading, it is hard for me to believe that these are his thoughts, however, because they are so orderly and the grammar is excellent:

Dear mom
Today I went to music
I sang a maroon 5song.
I had fun.
Love
Nat

But now I’m thinking that perhaps he can compose his thoughts better in the writing mode than in the speaking mode. Of course!! Didn’t I learn this in Communication 101, back in college? Certain modes of communicating are more natural and fluid than others for different people. Some function well in the sociogestural mode; some, in the mathematical-lexical; etc. Why is it so hard for me — of all people — to believe that writing is an easier mode of communication than speaking for Nat? Because he never types willingly.

But maybe that is because he needs to do it more intensively, more than 20 mins every other day at school, to make the leap that this is a desirable thing. So many things have been like this for Nat. He doesn’t realize, for years, that something we are trying to teach him is ultimately for his benefit, i.e., will improve his life and his happiness. Like learning to play basketball. It took two years before it made him really, really happy to play. Being able to communicate, period, will certainly improve Nat’s quality of life.

So this means — I should find a person who can teach him this in our home, who doesn’t mind getting hurt sometimes. Because he will resist this. Ah, there’s the rub. Er, pinch.

5 comments

Be careful about the typing on the computer thing. Our son has bought a few things on E-bay when we weren’t looking…

— added by Joe on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 9:58 am

I’m nearly in tears after reading that article. I know, it could just be hormones, but it gave me an idea. Chance’s birthday is coming up on Monday and he asked for a telescope. As much as I want him/us to have one, I’ve been hesitating..because of the destructive nature of his little brother. I think maybe a word processor might be the thing to get him…my hubby wants one for writing anyway. Plus we could work it into therapy as a time compliance or maybe even reward. Huh. -Tina in mN

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 2:27 pm

I am always amazed at how cool my son sounds when he is posting on Internet forums and blogs. I also know about that pushing to get over the hump thing when it comes to teaching new skills. My guess is that you are on the right track.

— added by VAB on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Susan, Do you send him e-mails at school? Does he like to respond?

I liked what Carly said about giving your kid chips when he/she types. She knows a motivator when she sees one. Mmmmmm chips.

Lisa

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 3:41 pm

That is what I was thinking – what is a good motivator for him? Like he can watch a Disney video after he “answers” an email to you or someone that has emailed him. Does he have his own email account at home? That might be a good thing for him to have – an email account at home where you can send him mock emails from different people – and then he can answer them for a motivational reward. Ice cream??? 🙂

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 2:12 am

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