Friday, October 16, 2015

Thoughts on Independence, Part II

*** This is the second part of a post that needed to be broken up. To read the first part first, click here

If you are reading this blog and want to know a little bit about the actual mechanics of typing for Oliver, this post is for you (and written with the consent of my fair boy). Oliver is moving along incrementally. His abilities on any given day are inextricably tied to his mood, how well he slept, how anxious he is, how much he is anticipating what lies ahead of him in his day. ... you know kind of like the rest of us. But I think it is worth pointing out because Oliver's performance, like everyone's, is so context driven.

I'm using a couple of videos to augment some of the points that I made in my last post concerning independence and why it is still preferable for Oliver to have physical support when he is typing despite the fact that he can and does type without it.

Oliver has decided that he would like to learn to type with two hands. Because we are sort of off the grid a bit when it comes to support for his typing (meaning we don't have easy access to professional guidance), we generally end up just making it up as we go along. These videos reflect our trial and error process of trying to determine what kind and how much support he needs.

Oliver tends to practice his independent typing off and on throughout the week. We don't work on independence everyday choosing instead to spend our time engaged in exchanging thoughts, opinions and ideas. ... you know, conversing! The fun stuff!! By practicing independence, I'm referring to the motor planning skills that go into his communication. When we do this, I ask him to spell single words that are known to both of us so I can coach him more easily. It is easier to understand the mistakes a person is making if you know the context. In the case below, the word is "popcorn".

I had not planned to tape the exercise but on the spur of the moment decided to have Sami stand nearby with the iPad to record so I can try and keep a better record of what Oliver's typing looks like as he tackles this new skill. Watching him struggle so much with his apraxia (see the constant over-shooting and under-shooting) as he typed I was reminded again of the principle of Presuming Competency. I wondered if someone who doesn't know Oliver's capabilities, might have watched Oliver type and quickly come to the conclusion that he didn't know how to spell. Perhaps they would think he was just typing gibberish and not let him finish. I know that in Oliver's life there have been many, many times when I didn't understand the true nature of the challenges I was seeing.

So then, after I made the popcorn he was asking for, I asked Oliver if he would type again for me. This time I stood behind him and rested the tips of my two index fingers on his shoulders. Occasionally I reached down and tapped his left hand if the letter he needed should be typed with the left hand. The difference between that little bit of support and no support is fairly obvious in his level of accuracy, I think. 

This video shows Oliver typing the word 'Popcorn'
with no physical support and some verbal prompting.
This video shows Oliver typing the word 'Popcorn' with
minimal physical support and some verbal prompting.

An even greater level of support would have resulted in more fluent typing with fewer errors.When Oliver types for communication, I give him the maximum amount of support he needs to make the least number of apraxia-related errors (currently this is four fingers placed firmly on his right shoulder.) When he works on developing his independence, we work to reduce the amount of support he needs without taxing him to the point of causing frustration. It is a process that we negotiate together and it looks different on different days.

Most importantly, Oliver is setting the goals and the pace, based on an inward desire to achieve the next level in his skill set and not, I sincerely hope, out of a sense of fear or inadequacy.

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