Independent Typing

Sue Rubin

Whittier College 
[Editor's note:  Sue Rubin is a frequent presenter on various aspects of facilitated communication.  This article was her written introduction to a presentation given in California in August, 1999.]

 Today's training is about independent typing, but I believe we cannot isolate physical independence from the other two elements of facilitated communication -- communication and emotional support.  Although I am called an independent typer because I no longer need physical touch, I cannot walk into a room, and type without a facilitator.  The facilitator must still provide communication and emotional support to allow the independent typing to happen

  Communicative support means positioning a keyboard where I am most comfortable, calling each word after I've typed it and verifying that was the word I intended, asking me the right questions with the right phrasing, deciding what I should verify by typing with other facilitators, and helping me extinguish autistic behaviors and echolalia which interfere with typing.  Other FC users might need questions or the communication partner's comments written or typed, and maybe all the letters should be called, or they might need specific positioning of their bodies, or specific communication devices.  Each person's needs will be different and the facilitator must problem solve whether the FC user is typing with physical support or not.   I type independently but absolutely need a communication partner who can support me
 The next part, emotional support, is usually thought of as bonding over a period of time, but I believe it has more to do with confidence, both of the facilitator and FC user.  Confidence makes independence happen.  I can now type independently with people I have just met because I am confident I can do it and they are confident it can happen because they see me typing independently with others. I gained confidence over time by being successful with each level of fading; however, independence still eluded me for the first five years of typing.

 Physical support, always assumed to be the most important part of FC, is actually the easiest to fade as long as there is not another neuromuscular problem to prevent it.  Both low muscle tone and conditions like cerebral palsy can prevent a person from becoming independent, but people with movement differences can and should make independence their goal.  At least fading to the shoulder should occur and the FC user must look at the board.

 . I believe facilitators should fade support immediately when they are first introducing a person to FC.  Very often we users get use to more support and are afraid to type more independently.  I also believe that an FC user will only type independently when he wants to.  In my case I wanted to become independent so people at Whittier College would believe I was doing my own work.  I knew I wanted to type independently but could not do it, so I purposefully went to another part of my brain to design a plan to accomplish it.  I knew we were going to visit my cousin in San Diego, so I decided I would do it there.  I wanted to be in a different environment from the one I always typed in.  When we were at my cousin's house I knew I needed something emotionally powerful to cancel my fear of independence.  I thought about how my cousin wouldn't let me sit in her living room, and made myself get angry.  The emotions of anger and hate were strong enough to overcome fear.  Nothing is a better motivator than hate.

 I admit I should have begun typing independently with facilitators other than my mom much earlier, but I was used to physical support with them and was not willing to give it up.  It was only after I moved into my own home and my mother wasn't there, that I decided to type independently with my staff.  It is easier and easier with each new staff person.  I can now type independently with a staff person immediately.  Although they are told what my communication support needs are, I am able to overcome some of those needs in order to let them have the experience of typing independently with me.

 My next goal is to free myself of the communication supports so I can be more flexible about my typing.  I need to practice typing independently on a keyboard when it is flat rather than in front of my face.  I also want to be able to type long essays without support.  Now that takes too long.

 I really want to encourage FC users to do whatever they have to in their minds so they could type independently.  It not only forces other people to admit that you are not retarded and are typing your own thoughts, but it gives the FC user a wonderful degree of freedom.  People can no longer influence your typing and interfere with your thoughts.  I love being able to type independently and it is definitely worth giving up the security of physical support. 

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