Questions Answered

Our recent trips to supported typing teacher Lisa Romaine have revealed how much Clay has to say through his keyboard. But the sessions in the room with the orange walls have also raised some interesting questions for us. Why does he move around so much? Why does he need support to type on his iPad when he uses it independently for most everything else? Why is this all so difficult for him? How is it that our basset hound can hear a potato chip hit the carpet in the family room while he is snoring like a freight train on the sofa two rooms away?

Typing is the key to unlocking Clay’s future, and we want to understand as much about it as we can. So, my wife posed all but the question about the dog (chalk that up to the mysteries of life) to Lisa via email. She also asked the Typing King himself. Their answers are below.

Question 1:  Clay say he wants to type but then spends a lot of the session in motion and apparently dodging attempts to type? What is going on?

LISA ROMAINE: “I don’t exactly know what it is for Clay because we have not asked him but for other kids who do similar things, they say that moving around helps them to organize their thinking and gets ideas “flowing.” Another reason is that they become very excited and have a hard time settling in knowing that they can communicate anything they would like during a session and choosing the message is sometimes overwhelming. I think when I would walk around after him, the pressure was too much, but when I backed off he was able to decide for himself when he was ready … . He would clearly show when he was ready either by sitting in the chair or letting me get him to a spot against a wall … this makes me think that for Clay it was part of him organizing his thinking and his body to get ready for communication.”

CLAY: “so we can say what we are thinking.” My wife asked if that meant he was using movement to organize his thoughts and he replied “yes.”

Question 2:  Clay can operate his iPad on his own like a master pianist, opening and closing apps, swiping to advance pages, spelling words, answering math problems. Given all of those skills, why can’t he type on his own as well? Why does he need support?

LISA ROMAINE:  ” … Many kids are able to play predictable games on the iPad independently and to navigate through the pages.  The issue lies in accessing original thought.  This is the level of thinking that is compromised when support is taken away. I have kids who can independently type pages and pages of movie credits they have stored in their memories, however, independent/original thinking needs to be supported.

“The support provides focus, organization, rhythm and many more things that help him to sequence his ideas and communicate in a much more eloquent and organized fashion than he can do independently at this point. The goal, of course, is independence and the fading of support. Even people who are communicating through typing independently have occasion where they continue to need some sort of support, be it physical, emotional or communicative.  Many factors contribute to the amount of support needed. State of regulation, physical and emotional, level of anxiety, sensory processing issues, etc.

“I guess a way to understand it for us is when we think about driving a car.  When we are in familiar territories we go on automatic pilot and are able to get places without thinking, sometimes even forgetting how we got there when we arrive at our destination.  However, when we are lost and have no idea where we are, we need support.  We tend to need the radio quiet, our children/spouses to be quiet, so we can “think” about what we are doing and where we are going, something that is so easy for us, driving, now becomes much more difficult as our anxiety is raised and the pressure is on to find the finish line.”

CLAY:  “so we can type more words and say stupendous things    awesome to type.”

Some insight from two experts.


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  1. #1 by Kathy P on December 2, 2011 - 10:36 am

    Wow….that all makes sense with the way Lisa gives those examples…..and another insight into the world of autism. Thanks for sharing this important information with us here!

  2. #2 by Char Brandl on December 2, 2011 - 10:44 am

    This is great. I would agree completely with everything both Lisa and Clay have to say on this. It fits perfectly with my experience – and I have typed with many, many very special and unique individuals. Lucky ME! Thanks so much for sharing these insights.

  3. #3 by autismmommytherapist on December 2, 2011 - 1:35 pm

    I’ve learned so much about this type of communication from these posts. Thank you, and what he has to say IS stupendous!

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