Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Michael now types a few words independently.

I knew Michael could “copy type”.  He would type out the titles of episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine he saw on YouTube and then bring his keyboard device to his mom as his way of asking her to download the episode.  Some people wonder why if he is able to “copy type” this way, then why can’t he type his thoughts independently, too.

Think about it.  Suppose you were given the following option. Either “copy type” three paragraphs about the benefits of believing in a God that were already written by someone else or compose three paragraphs about the benefits of believing in a God using your brain as your only resource.  Then suppose you were told you had 20 minutes to complete the assignment.  Which option would you choose? 

The point is that a non-speaking person who hasn’t been given the support to coordinate his/her body to type effectively experiences major writer’s block… writer’s block times a million.

As I type this paragraph, I’m noticing I’ve taken my writing ability for granted.  I’m not extolling my ability to write fantastically literate paragraphs.  I’m just noticing the mechanics I use to express myself through.

I can say the word to myself that “appears” in my brain and simultaneously coordinate my arms and fingers writing to move to type to put my thoughts into form. 
A non-speaking person with autism or other neurological disorder does not have this luxury.

While Michael and I were at the mall last week, after we bought our movie tickets, we had time to walk around with his mom.  We walked through the bookstore and stopped at the greeting card section.  Michael touched one of the stands of cards, so I put his iPad in front of him and asked him if he wanted to look at the books or the cards.  I waited for him to extend his arm to me as his signal that he wanted my support to type his answer.  Instead Michael extended his index finger and typed books without any help from me.  His mom and I were shocked.  Later, after the movie, his mom met us in the theatre’s lobby.  She put the iPad in front of him and said “what do you say to Steve?”  Again, instead of reaching for my support, he typed bye independently.

Short responses in the form of small words are possible for him now, such as yes, no, mom, and Tony.  But typing full sentences is a different story.  Our number one goal is that Michael will type on his own – independent of any physical support from someone else.  Until that time, we’ll give him the support he needs. 

Aside from typing with me, Michael has typed with his Grandmother, Mother, and Tony, his one-on-one aide at school. However, as is has happened with other FC users, Michael has grown most comfortable with singling out a person to support him to type, and that person at this point happens to be me.  I learned today that Michael has been resisting allowing anyone other than me to type with him.  He even hit his mom on the head twice when she asked to support him to type over the weekend.  He has also refused to take his iPad to school the past two days.  That means that Tony can’t practice typing with him either. 

It was time for Michael and me to have a conversation.  He couldn’t get the words out fast enough.  I didn’t bother reminding him that the needed periods at the end of his sentences.

S: Michael each person has to discover how to support you on their own. they have to feel it. but in order for them to discover that you need to let them type with you. what do you say to that?

M: I want to say that I want to let them type with me but it is irritating when they do not know what they are doing I get you to give them help but they don't under stand what you are telling them and I get even more angry help the because I can not explain it to them at all and I get so mad that I want to hit them you are able to under stand where i want to go on the iPad so it is easy for me to type with you right the way you hold and right the way you move with me I like to type with you because it is right to say what I want to say and I get to finally talk after all these years.

S: That was quite a series of statements.  what is the reason you have not taken your iPad to school the last two days?

M: I easy type say you and Tony is not easy to type with he pushes too hard and I can not type what I want to type you need to help him and he needs to type the way you type with me not to go to school with iPad until he gets help fast learner Tony is tony right to type with me like you me easy not hard you are getting even better at typing with me so you are the teacher for the others.

S: you are getting better at typing. you are becoming more coordinated. this means that in time you will be able to type with others and you will be able to type independently ... on your one. do you have any more to say about?

M: I want to and you to go to school with me tomorrow.

I’m going to Michael’s school tomorrow at 2:15, and Michael promised to take his iPad so he and I can help Tony support him to type with less pressure.

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