Supported typing has caused a breakthrough in silence. Supported typing, also commonly referred to as Facilitated Communication (FC), is a strategy for improving motor skills to enable someone to type, point to or touch objects, pictures, or letters for communication purposes. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, FC is done by a facilitator, who provides communication, emotional, physical supports to a person with significant communication disability in order to communicate.
The method has allowed nonverbal individuals the opportunity to share their worlds. This communication strategy has allowed circles of relationships to emerge. Unquestionably, supported typing has changed the communication landscape for those without a traditional voice.
Despite positive claims, there are still looming questions, such how students who are nonverbal type if they are not looking at the keyboard. Further, how can this same subgroup use such eloquent speech higher than grade level? Moreover, how is it possible to have the ability to read and write without prior formal training? Additionally, how can they have so much knowledge, be in college, but not answer questions in a controlled setting? Last, it is extremely difficult for many to conceptualize how an individual might need a tremendous amount of physical support to communicate through typing.
In current years, however, studies have confirmed supported typing as a legitimate strategy through eye tracking (Grayson et al., 2011), linguistic analysis (Zanobini & Scopese, 2001; Niemi & Karna-Lin, 2002; Tuzzi, 2009), evidence of unexpected speech (Broderick & Kasa-Hendrickson, 2001; Kasa-Hendrickson, Broderick, & Hanson, 2009), typing with little or zero support, talking aloud before and during typing (Biklen, 2005; Biklen & Burke, 2006).
Imagine having the communication window to your world shut permanently. Supported typing opens that window in a way that allows fresh ideas, thoughts, opinions, feelings, academic achievements, social and emotional development to finally blow in like a breeze cooling off years of frustration for many of our students, like Patrick.
Patrick, for example, typed for the first time in 2009, and everyone was excited about his unexpected communication and cognitive ability. People’s views of him were completely changed. He shared thoughts, ideas, and feelings about his world with others. Finally, Patrick was able to demonstrate valid communication.
From all accounts, the introduction to supported typing was the best part of Patrick’s academic and social life. People treated Patrick with respect and more like a teenager. However, despite being hopeful, his mother continued to worry about Patrick’s future. Finally though, Patrick had a voice!
Through supported typing, educators, friends, and family members can finally hear Patrick’s communication. Within the construct of this communication approach, Patrick was able to experience academic achievement, enhance motor-planning skills, improve multi-sensory integration, increase self-esteem, and build on social growth. This communication strategy helped Patrick to progress in the functional, emotional, and developmental levels.
Even in the face of unpleasant previous school experiences, Patrick managed to walk on the communication road of life with a positive attitude. Now, Patrick is not only a gentle giant but also considered a student leader within the school setting. For the first time, the world could see Patrick’s infectious charm and hear his heart-wrenching story. Supported typing allowed Patrick to demonstrate intelligence, communicate, and express his joy. To the pleasure of many, Patrick is no longer trapped in complete silence! Dr. Michael Knox, Principal, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.