25 Years Later He Typed “I love you” to Me via Assisted Typing
A monumental day happened on January 22, 2015. My severely disabled, soon-to-be 31-year-old son with spastic quadriplegia diagnosed after a brain hemorrhage from an attempt to remove a brain tumor at 3-weeks of age – he typed his first sentences in nearly 25 years – 25 years later and he typed “I love you” to me! Read on to see how this day transpired.
This all came about where I had said to the Physical Therapist who was working on his wheelchair back in Nov. 2014 – I wished Facilitated Communication never stopped.
You see, back roughly 25 years ago our school district implemented Facilitated Communication. If you’re unsure what that is – it’s now referred to as Assisted Typing and consists of a person who assists an individual with disabilities in typing. They help control the arm/wrist movements so that the individual has an easier time in pointing to the letters they want to use to spell their words, forming sentences, if they wish.
My son – who had a very limited vocalized vocabulary at the age of 6, did very well with facilitated communication. Sure – not every word was spelled correctly – for instance “milk” was “mlik” but he got his point across.
The problem – the school district stopped any use of facilitators as there were too many individuals typing that they had been abused and/or sexually abused. Many superiors didn’t believe that these individuals were making the complaints themselves – but rather – the facilitator stating that was what was typed out and then reporting the incidents.
And that, my friend, ended Facilitated Communication for all individuals in our state unless they could facilitate their own typing 100%. Sure I could have continued on with the facilitating myself, but when there’s a crap load of individuals working with a child – it’s rather hard.
Back when it was known as Facilitated Communication, and my son was involved with it, typing was limited to a sheet of paper with the alphabet/numbers on it; though some individuals had smaller typing devices – but not many. There weren’t many to be had. They were expensive at that. However, through the years – devices have evolved to where there are many, including the iPad. And, they renamed Facilitated Communication to Assisted Typing.
So back to where I spoke with the physical therapist. She stated that maybe this could all become a reality again. That the company she works for had received a grant where a Speech Therapist who is extensively trained in Assisted Typing was working with individuals in the here and now; and if I’d like, she’d see if the therapist could fit my son in. Wow – are you kidding me? Please do!
An appointment was set up for him to be assessed to see if he was a candidate. Let me tell you, he ACED that assessment. He was assessed with the use of an iPad, and though considered legally blind (he has optical nerve damage in his left eye from a brain hemorrhage), he did an incredible job.
He spelled sight words – 6 of them – when asked to (above). He saw the dots that he had to tap so that they would go off sounding like a firecracker and then disappear from the screen. He was asked to pick out words on a grid – he got 98% of the words correct.
Now onto the next session – session #2. This session I had no idea what to expect. The therapist started out with asking him to pick out words again. He did that very well. Now, this is very hard for my son. The muscle control and focusing for a long period of time (> an hour) – really wears him out. In fact, after the first session – he fell asleep while we conversed devising a game plan.
In seeing this, the therapist decided to cut the second session short. BUT FIRST – she wanted to see what he could do using the keyboard on the iPad. Mind you – the keyboard that pops up is small – the letters are small and a plastic overlay was placed on the keyboard portion of the iPad to make touching the correct letter easier.
But… guess what? Take a look:
He was asked to spell his name with her assisting his movements and he did just that. BUT – before the therapist could ask him to type something else – he began to type a word. That’s the “get…and he continued on to finish the sentence.
Baffled – baffled at what he was trying to say is an underestimate of what was going on here. None of us (his sister and his day support person was with us) had no idea what it was he was talking about. Sure we have a dog – but she’s 90 lbs – he’s not putting her in the dresser.
So the therapist tried to pinpoint where any of us would find this ‘puppy’ because – yes two of us went looking! Was it a Barney Tape that had a puppy in it? Was it an Elmo tape? That’s where the N n y n comes in. Then he went off on his own accord again – typing out the “doesn’t mean its there.”
The joke was on us…seriously! Duh – he stated to us “Get into my dream” why were we even looking for a puppy somewhere?
Lastly he was asked by the therapist – “Is there anything you’d like to say to your mom?” Without hesitation, he began to type again. And this my friend is where you see the “I love you.”
I stood there crying, hugging this child of mine, that had never had been able to express “I love you” other than when he spoke “I O U.” Did I/we really know that he knew what that meant? NO! No idea. The “I O U” could have been part of his vowel repertoire he spoke since learning his vowels from the Wheel of Fortune show he started watching when he was 4-5 yrs old – for all we knew.
So I am letting the world know that January 22, 2015 will go down in history for me. For him. For those who were with us and witness the Assisted Typing session that day.
I was never so proud of this child of mine that I was told would be a vegetable when he was an infant. Proud – proud that he remembered what to do with the pointer finger…what to do with that keyboard. Crap! That keyboard doesn’t even come close to the paper with the ABC’s in alphabetical order he used 25 yrs ago.
I had no idea he knew where the letters even were on a real keyboard. I had no idea he knew what a period was and where it went. I had no idea he knew how to form a complete sentence – with punctuation. Do I give a crap about the rest of the sentence structure? Absolutely not! Not the spelling of any word. Not there being any capitals. Not there being any apostrophes. I don’t care!
And as I type this – I am in tears. What else has he wanted to say all these years? Assisted Typing – we are on a roll – and this child of mine – his voice will be heard completely now.
If there’s one thing that I could say to any new parent with a child that has health issues of any caliber – do NOT EVER give up on yourself – on your child. For that matter – any child/adult that has experience adversity involving the brain. Miracles do happen!
Thanks for letting me share this monumental Assisted Typing day with you – seriously, miracles do happen.