Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Facilitated Communication

To Sandra...a person having a Facilitated Workshop coming up.
From Their Flyer:
. "Many people with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, and other challenges cannot speak (or cannot use speech to communicate fully) and have not found alternative systems of communication that allow unlimited use of language.

A method of communication that has made interactive language possible for many is facilitated communication (FC). This technique requires a facilitator who supports a person's hand or arm which in turn makes it possible for that person to direct a finger to her or his chosen spot on a keyboard. Some people who use FC are able to realize independent typing."
Dear Sandra-
I am on a listserv and somehow got your information on the FC conference.
I wanted to tell you about my use of FC.
I was working at the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing at the time. (around maybe 89-90). FC was just being introduced Stateside I think. As I recall there was a lot used in Australia I think, and it was full of controversy. I was finishing up my Bachelor of Science from Central Michigan University.
My Student Was Keith. He was non verbal, a very LARGE kid--sometimes bad behaviors. Nobody thought he was worth anything on..he's was just a "blob". (I'm just trying to tell you how it was not trying to put judgment or anything). He was a "tucker"...(He had tucked his Private for so long and would PULL it.....well...he would tuck --WAYY tuck and it would show out the BACK of the top of his too small Sweat pants that his mom kept him in ALL the time.) I share that to just add the picture of how people dealt with "him that was Keith".
Anyway..I always liked him--I had come out of working at a State Mental Institution and was just loving the school setting. I would tease Keith...he lived in the dorm that connected to the one I worked at. He would move over and make room if I went over there to watch TV or whatever, talk at the desk. He LOVED magazines...looking at the pictures (we thought), or greeting cards etc. He loved after Christmas when Staff would bring in all their holiday cards and give them to him.
The students lived at MSB during the week and went home on the weekends. They would come in about 4 on Sunday, and leave Friday afternoons.

One of the teachers became aware of FC. Keith had used some pictures, but not to much success. He did not have a "picture board" for communicating in the dorm, or the school as I recall. He really did not communicate, but just sort of existed. Not bad, not good...just "was". His head sort of rolled around on his too fat shoulders, and he was just "there".
I started working with Keith. I was instructed in the 'how to do it'. Put my hand over his..had the alphabet board etc. (please excuse if I'm not using the correct terms, I"m trying to just tell you this from memory before I get online and relook stuff up). I think his board looked like a keyboard, the thought being that maybe eventually they would be able to use a keyboard, but that was before Email and all that was really being used at the School. Some kids had Speak boards but not very many.

SO...Out comes a book. I read to Keith. The story was about a girl, with very long hair, getting ready for school in the morning. There was something about conversation with her mom, having her go down the stairs to get ready, brushing her hair etc.
Then the FC.
I'm Shaking as I remember this stuff. Everyone that was there swears I was faking it. I was NOT.
There were 'routine' questions prepared I was supposed to ask Keith, about the story.
IMMEDIATELY, the back pressure worked, and he began pointing out to letters. NO HESITATION. He was going so fast, I had to write letters down to try and get the "words" as they came up.
He knew the story..answered the questions, etc etc. At one point, when asked the girls name...he typed out MY NAME...and I realized...He was JOKING!! This...this..."Blob" of a nothing student...had SENSE OF HUMOR!!! I was laughing and he was laughing..and nobody GOT it. Some began to understand, others ALWAYS insisted I was doing the movement. Then eventually...it worked with other people too. We realized---KEITH COULD READ. All those years of looking at mag's or whatever...He was able to somehow figure it out.
That MOMENT...of "contact" with Keith--was and is one of the "real est" moments of "human to human" contact I have had.
what did this do for Keith?
He was able to express that he wanted to learn to use the Microwave. When he went home on weekends, his mom (barely mentally competent) only gave him peanut butter sandwiches all weekend.
The teacher was able to teach him that, how to get his mom to buy food he could do etc. That was huge. He started doing his own laundry.

These were small things..but ...HUGE for the life of Keith.
I hope he still has someone to use it with.

Well, thanks for listening

1 comment:

klasieprof said...