Looking away from the keyboard: Debunking the debunkers


Over and over, I’ve seen people say that you can tell facilitated communication is not real, very easily, if the typist is not looking at the keyboard. The following quote from the Religious Tolerance website illustrates typical attitudes towards this:

There is one condition in which it is obvious to even an untrained observer that the person with autism is not doing the communicating during a FC session. This is when they are staring at the ceiling or directly away from the keyboard.

If you attempt to type with a single finger, you will only find the correct key reliably if you can actually see the key that you are aiming at. It is common knowledge that if you stare at the ceiling when typing with one finger, you will normally miss most of the characters. On a typical PC keyboard; you will typically be offset by one or two keys on the keyboard. This is true even for people who are skilled typers.

Most “skilled typers” are touch-typists. Most touch-typists do not gain their ability to touch-type overnight. I know this because I am an extremely skilled touch-typist. When you see beginning touch-typists, they will be staring at their hands unless prevented from doing so. It took me years of dedicated practice to become as proficient as I am at touch-typing (by which I mean as fast as I am).

Touch-typists are trained in a very specific method of finding keys. We are trained to use a specific set of key positions, called the “home row,” and use that as a reference point. Many touch-typists don’t even know the layout of the keyboard in their heads, they just know it in their fingers in reference to the “home row”, and do not even know the distances between the keys if using just one finger. To expect a ten-finger touch-typist to convert to one-finger typing without looking at the keyboard is usually expecting too much. A few people, including me, can do it on their first try, but not a lot. Like ten-finger touch-typing, one-fingered typing is a skill that has to be learned, it isn’t just there from the beginning, either one cannot be converted into the other.

I have spoken with many autistic people who, like me, can type one-fingered without looking. One of them recently even expressed surprise that people find this a difficult skill, or that people would believe it impossible. Morton Gernsbacher states in one of her training videos that her son, who types independently, glances at the letterboard a few times to get a feel for the size of it, and then looks away while pointing one-fingered at it with great proficiency.

Then take a look at the Religious Tolerance folks. They had someone try to type the words “facilitated communication” without looking, with one finger, and they could not do it. This was proof to them that it was impossible, and that therefore, if a facilitator was looking at the keyboard, and a typer was looking away, it was the facilitator who was really typing the words.

Picture of an autistic person typing one-fingered while looking at the ceiling.The latest addition to the Getting the Truth Out website covers this topic, including a video of the author of the website staring at the ceiling while typing a sentence with only one error.

As is pointed out there, it’s very interesting that part of the reasoning behind this seems to be “If normal people couldn’t do this, you people couldn’t possibly.”

That is the same reasoning that prevented researchers from finding the stuff that Michelle Dawson, Laurent Mottron, and others at their laboratory found, about perceptual strengths in autistic people. People had been too busy looking for ways to explain autistic people’s strengths in terms of what we are not (according to them) good at, to look at the opposite possibility. The notion that there could be anything about autistic people that involved being better at something than typical people tend to be, without being the result of a “deficit” in comparison to non-autistic people, just seems too confusing for a lot of the so-called experts in the field.

This is not to say, that if we really were just plain lacking some particular capacity, that we would be of any less value. I do not believe that. But I find it very interesting that many of the ways disabled people are judged in general, seem to contain the assumption that our only difference from non-disabled people is that we can do less than they can do, that if they do something badly then we could never even dream of doing it, and that anything we do happen to be good at is merely a “compensation” for lacking something else.

When I was first diagnosed, I was described as having “idiot-savant tendencies” because I had abilities that in any non-autistic person would just be considered skills or intelligence. This is, to me, another manifestation of the same problem. We are “idiots”, therefore anything we’re even standard-level good at is “idiot-savant” or “splinter skills”, supposedly out of the ordinary for people like us. I have seen similar things happen to people labeled with mental retardation, whose intelligence or other abilities are usually written off as meaningless or non-existent because they’re non-standard or displayed in non-standard ways.

So, yes, people insisting that their inability to do something proves our inability to do the same thing, might want to take note: Just because most non-autistic people can’t do something, doesn’t mean autistic people can’t do it. You might type something like “Edkd yd rsdu,” but we might type “This is easy.”

About Mel Baggs

I am a highly sensing person. I am a child of earth and water, I was born into a redwood forest and I left the forest but it never left me. I'm 34 as I wrote this. If I had an alignment like in role-playing games and MUDs, I'd be chaotic good all the way: I don't think it's possible to fill ethics into a moral code, the world is far too complex for that. I let the world be complex and chaotic and try to respond situation by situation from a small number of principles of right and wrong. My responses may seem to contradict each other, but that will be because either the situation has changed, or I have changed. I am a poet who is trying to practice more every day, hence the poetry blog. I am a cat lover and live with a wonderful elderly cat. I am a painter when I have the time, energy, and resources. I have multiple cognitive, physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities, and my health is not usually stable. Put all together, I'd be considered severely disabled. I get a lot of assistance throughout the day. I am a real living cyborg, part human part machine: I have a GJ feeding tube to feed me through one tube and drain my stomach through the other,, an InterStim implant for urinary retention, and a port (a permanent central IV line). I love life. I think Love (not the sentimental emotion, but the property of the world) is the most important thing that human beings can offer each other. Being near death enough times has taught me that, and has also taught me that I have no time for bullies or pettiness. I'm involved in disabilty rights and other causes that people these days would call 'social justice', but I don't consider myself part of the 'SJ community' or the 'anti-SJ community' because of that thing I said about pettiness -- they're more about one-upmanship than fixing the world. I wish they had not taken over the words 'social justice', which used to mean something else. I love talking to just ordinary people about fixing the world, they have far more realistic ideas and more likelihood of putting them into practice. I'm a Hufflepuff to the core, with some Gryffindor tendencies and even a little bit of Ravenclaw. I admire some Slytherins but I don't have much ambition or cunning at all. I still think the Slytherin common room is second best, with Hufflepuff coming first. My favorite color is brown, especially when combined with a bit of yellow or blue. My favorite music is country, and my favorite country artists are Kathy Mattea, Lacy J. Dalton, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn. I don't like most new country but i occasionally hear something on the radio I like. At an early age, my family listened to country almost exclusively to the point where I thought all the different types of country were all the different types of music! I couldn't put Lacy J. Dalton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson in the same category. Although now that I've grown up I can hear that they are all country, but as a kid my ear was trained more for minute differences in country styles, than for recognizing country from other types of music. Country isn't all I like. Some other bands and artists I like: The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Rasputina, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Rich Mullins (I'm not Christian but some Christian music is amazing), ), The Raventones/T.R. Kelley, Planet P Project/Tony Carey, Sinead Lohan, Donna Williams, Suzanne Vega, Phideaux, and Jethro Tull, to name a few. I love the Cocteau Twins in particular because they are everything being sensing is about: Words are chosen for their sound, not their meaning, the voice becomes yet another instrument rather than a conveyor of words, raw emotion pours out of them, there are layers upon layers, and they were around for long enough there's lots of their music in a variety of different styles -- including their later stuff where the words have more meaning than just sounds. Each period in their music has its benefits and drawbacks but I love them all, or nearly so. Their music comes as close as any music can come to conveying how I experience the world, as what Donna Williams calls 'pattern, form, and feel'. And Elizabeth Fraser has a beautiful voice, I once had a teenage crush on her. As I type this, I have a cat sitting on my shoulder, cheek to cheek with me, peering around and occasionally rubbing me. My relationship to her goes back 15 years to when she was six months old, and we've rarely been parted since. It's been an honor to watch her grow into a wise but crotchety old lady cat. She knows she's technically older than me and tells me so sometimes, especially during arguments. She has trouble with the fact that there are parts of the human world I know better than she does. She sees me as her big, dumb kitten who needs protecting, and is beside herself with worry if I end up in the hospital (which seems to happen frequently these days). I don't experience myself as having a gender identity, I call it being genderless. You'll sometimes see the pronouns sie and hir in my work, they are gender-neutral pronouns pronounced 'see' and 'hear'. I was raised female, which gives me both disadvantages (outside the trans community) and advantages (inside the trans community). You don't have to remember my pronouns, lots of people have trouble with gender-neutral pronouns. I won't be upset with you. People make mistakes, and some people just can't get the hang of new words, and that's okay. I have vocabulary problems myself (mostly comprehension), I'm not going to penalize other people for having vocabulary problems of their own. Right now my father is dying of cancer that's metastatized so many places they can't figure out where it started, my mother has severe myasthenia gravis that can land her in the ICU (and she's my father's primary caretaker), my "second mother" (who took over when I grew up and my family didn't know how to prepare me for the world) has endometrial cancer, and my cat is getting old. All of this is bringing death to the forefront of my mind and my poetry. In fact I think I've been able to write more poetry because of all the feelings about so many people dying or with precarious health. It was easier to handle when it was me that was going to die (averted by diagnosis and treatment of severe adrenal insufficiency that'd been going on for years). It's harder when it's someone else, someone you love. My other hobby is crocheting, and a lot of the time if I'm not writing, it'll be hard to find me without a crochet hook or occasional knitting needles in my hands. I love to be able to make things. I have been making hats and scarves with spare yarn (which I have a lot of), and putting them in City Hall Park wrapped in plastic, with notes saying "If you're cold, take this." I know what it's like to be cold in the winter, and if anyone takes them and stays warm I'd be overjoyed. You may have noticed I'm long-winded. This is actually the result of a language disability that makes it difficult for me to leave out details, to see two almost-identical things as perhaps something that doesn't need repeating, and to summarize or condense down my writing. I know this is a flaw in my writing, and it even prevents me from reading it sometimes, but I've found no solutions. Sometimes on my longer posts I'll put a "TL;DR" ("too long; didn''t read") summary at the end in bold letters for people to skip down to.. But even those don't feel adequate, even when I can do theme, which is not always. I think I'm getting better though. Learning haiku and other short poetry forms helps me condense my words better. Anyway, I hope that gives you enough idea of who I am. At my most basic, I care about Love more than anything (whenever I come near enough to death, I feel like I get asked the question "Did you Love, and did you express that Love properly?"), but like everyone I get sidetracked into things that are much less important. I try to make my writing an expression of Love. Sometimes I succeed.

40 responses »

  1. I was just thinking about this during my last days at work and people often have to do a double take and read what I type when they watch me. They are sometimes shocked that I’ve output whole paragraphs in mere seconds while looking up at the ceiling sometimes looking like I’m totally somewhere else besides my keyboard. They then realize, there is a whole lot more inside me going on than they had thought. I recently wrote about other kinds of issues I’ve had when I used to let others push me around: http://lordalfredhenry.livejournal.com/226051.html

  2. I’ve been touch-typing since I was 11 (my mom taught me all kinds of things other kids didn’t learn at home). Now I can’t type properly if I look at my hands. (Of course, I’ve been typing for nearly 19 years now.)

    I can also type one-handed, without looking. I make few errors.

    When I’m typing from a sample, I know when I have made a mistake without looking at the screen to see what I typed. It’s “just one of those things”.

    I have no difficulty believing that someone could type one-fingered without looking at the keyboard.

  3. “You might type something like “Edkd yd rsdu,” but we might type “This is easy.””


    Ballastexistenz – are there are web resources concering FC? A beginners guide for kids and their parents maybe?

  4. I’ve been considering putting some of the information I gleaned at the workshop I went to a couple of years ago up on my web site, but I’ll have to get permission from Char and Gail first.

    Don’t see why they’d say no, though.

  5. 1) I’m a two-fingered (index fingers) touch-typist. I started practicing when I was nine years old because I have some fine motor coordination problems– nothing extreme, but my hand cramps if I try to write with a pen or pencil for any extended length of time– and I wanted to have a place to write my stories. (Yes, autistic people write stories; this surprises some people although it shouldn’t.) I never learnt to touch-type in the “regular” fashion because it would have required stripping everything to baseline and re-starting as an inefficient beginner, which seemed pointless when I could already type very proficiently after my own fashion. It actually seems to prevent me from getting repetitive stress injuries because I move my wrists around rather than keeping them in a fixed position.

    I can’t do a good description of *how* exactly I do it, though. I’ve had some people find it unbelievable that anyone could type so quickly with two fingers until they actually saw me do it.

    2) OCRT has an apparent tendency to jump the gun on a lot of issues in which well-publicized cases of fraud have occurred, conclude “this doesn’t exist at all,” and ignore most people who write in presenting evidence against their views. They claim that because they receive an enormous volume of mail they cannot respond to most of it, leading me to wonder why they invite feedback in the first place. If they do allot some time to your POV, they often will not quote you directly but will ‘re-word’ your statements according to how they want others to see you, and put that on the page. A friend of ours wrote to them six years ago, trying to get them to include a section on natural multiplicity on their “MPD/DID” page. Instead of quoting her, they used the quote “MPD is a gift” by an unnamed, uncredited author (although our friend never made that statement and did not refer to multiplicity as a gift), and promoted that as being “representative” of natural multiples’ viewpoint. They ignored our later letter to them, having decided that the bone they threw us by including a few more links was sufficient.

  6. The video is a great addition to the site.

    I’m kind of keeping track, and google has 552 hits for “gettingthetruthout” and “autism”. “Gettingthewordout” and “autism” only had 103 hits.

    I guess the “truth” outdoes the “word”.

    Kinda sets one free, eh?

    Thanks so much for what you are doing.

  7. Why is it that the “debunkers” never bother to get the opinions of those of us who have actually used that kind of physical support in the past and now type independently some, most or all of the time? Do they not believe that we exist? Or do they just consider our every word suspect somehow, supported or not?

    A lot of the anti-FC claims seem to illustrate really disturbing attitudes towards disability in general and developmental disability in particular. I remember reading something by an anti-FC person who claimed that while it might work for people with cerebral palsy who were “only physically disabled”, he didn’t believe that it could ever work for autistic and intellectually disabled people because, in his words, there was “nothing much there”. While not all of that group think that way, quite a few share the attitude to some extent.

  8. I don’t think they believe we exist, or that we’re for real, or something like that.

    I didn’t learn to type through FC, but I do use FC sometimes (in both fairly standard and fairly non-standard forms). Merely for saying that I primarily type to communicate (without any mention of FC), I’ve found out that people have more than once spread rumors that I am not really the one writing my work. Without ever checking with me, meeting me, or anything.

    And, yes, I’ve noticed that if someone is viewed as cognitively disabled in some way — nearly any way — then if the more real content comes out of our fingers or some other non-standard communication method, rather than our mouths, it’s met with total skepticism.

    I may have to eventually write a post about the several ways in which my opinions and writing are discredited (as in, seen as not coming from me to begin with, therefore not even worth debating), because it’s quite impressive really.

    But, I’ve noticed that our opinions, collectively, don’t count for a lot in all this. I once read an entire email exchange in which Sharisa Kochmeister was saying “Stop calling me an ‘anecdote’ and an ‘outlier’,” and people were very patronizingly explaining to her that that’s exactly what she was and that she’d better just get used to it.

  9. OCRT (the “religious tolerance” folks) are primarily “debunkers” and “skeptics.” I use the term “skeptic” in that they have the attitude that if something unusual can be reproduced by fraudulent means, it “proves” that whatever it is *must* be fraudulent. This is typical of most such “skepticism,” wherein proof that something exists is met with more opposition than hints that something may not exist.

    In other words “Extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof,” which is not a bad rule to go by. However, the approach is generally not actually that, it’s rather to call the proof into question, usually by implying that the person has “something to gain” from the proof being tested. Usually that’s true – even if the only gain is being taken seriously. Therefore, the proof need not be examined.

    Of all the people who are the worst examples of this sort of nonsense, the “Amazing Randi” comes first to mind. As an illusionist, he can fake nearly anything. Therefore, he believes in nothing extra-ordinary – forgetting that most people couldn’t fake something extraordinary to save their lives.

    I view them as “normalcy police.” Or if you prefer, part of the vast Denialist conspiracy, a visible and terrifying manifestation of
    Clarke’s First Law:

    “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

  10. Pingback: Ballastexistenz » Blog Archive » How to suppress disabled people’s writing.

  11. The trouble I have, with “Extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof,” has always been, “Who gets to define whick claims are extraordinary and which are not?”

    To me there’s nothing extraordinary about typing one-fingered without looking at the keyboard. To them, there apparently is.

  12. What I want to know is:

    Do you have a picture of the keyboard in your head?

    And would you still have this ability if you didn’t have letters, numbers or symbols on the keyboard?

  13. I’d assume that if I don’t have letters, numbers, or symbols on the keyboard, it would be no different than not seeing the keyboard at all.

    I talked to someone who is the only person she knows who can use her keyboard because all the letters are worn off. She does one-finger typing without looking.

    They do make keyboards without symbols on them, too, although I’ve never used one: Das Keyboard.

    I never really look anyway so I’d assume I wouldn’t see a difference.

    I think in sensory/spatial maps, keyboards are no different, they have a mapped space to them.

  14. I bow down to all touch-typing pros. The only way I got through HS typing was to memorize the paragraph and stare at the keyboard. I got busted when the teacher noticed my “paraphrasing.” I’ve gotten better over time, but still transpose letters when I don’t slow down. Dyslexic fingers, I guess.
    Why do poeple feel a need to “debunk” what they don’t even understand?

  15. Pingback: Ballastexistenz » Blog Archive » On “contradictions” and so-called prodigies and so-called savants and prejudice and being a freak on display.

  16. I taught myself to type on a manual typewriter when I was about 5 or 6. I “learned” again when I was 13 (required class). However, my pinky fingers are too short to operate a manual typewriter. So, when typing on a manual typewriter, I touch typed without using pinkies, while on an electric typewriter or keyboard, I can use all fingers.

    Using the correcting Selectric typewriters used to annoy/amaze my co-workers years ago when I worked for the City government. I would be aware of a mistake, but my fingers would have already typed maybe 3 words or so, so I’d have to “untype” with the correcting tape and retype. I would, of course, do all this without pause or looking, possibly while having an unrelated conversation. It drove them crazy. I didn’t know what the big deal was.


  17. Very cool video. I think that true facilitated communication is a huge asset to people who have trouble getting their thoughts and/or ideas across to others. With respect to FC, the “they don’t look at the keyboard and type one-handed, so they must be faking it” argument is obviously seriously flawed.

    The best way to ensure that there is no bias from the facilitator that I have seen is to test the person having difficulty by showing only them (and not the facilitator) a series of objects and then have them use the facilitator to describe what they’ve seen.

  18. If anyone’s looking for a beginner’s guide to FC they should begin at the beginning and spring for a copy of Rosemary Crossley’s basic text – Facilitated Communication Training, Teachers College Press, available from Amazon –
    which, incidentially, stresses looking at the keyboard as an important skill, because
    (a) not everybody with communication disorders has these location skills,and
    (b) having everybody doubt you is no fun, no matter how untrue it is.

    Warning of confliuct of interest: I live with Rosemary. Now RTFM.

  19. Well, to be fair, they do admit that
    “These results would not necessarily be valid for persons with autism.”

    …but one sentence in the middle of a paragraph hardly seems like adequate response to something that could potentially invalidate your entire point. If the difficulty of typing with a small number of fingers without looking at the keyboard doesn’t apply to (some or all) auties, then that objection is invalid.

    I doubt if I could do that – I’m too used to typing with all my fingers and have no skill at typing with just a few. But it would be absurd to assume that because I can’t do it, nobody else can either!

    However, I should point out that the test proposed by BigHeathenMike above – show one image to the autistic and another to the facilitator and see what they describe – has in fact been done and in almost all cases, the FC process produced a description of the target shown to the facilitator and NOT to the autistic. (Neither the facilitators nor the autistics knew that they were being shown different targets, IIRC.)

    Of course, some people who have difficulty speaking may be able to express themselves better through typing – with one finger or many, looking at the keyboard or away from it – but when more than one person is involved, you do need to be careful to see who is actually doing the communicating. It’s hardly surprising that the NT relatives of an autistic are pathetically eager to believe that a communication breakthrough has been made, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to throw caution to the winds.

  20. I’m a big fan of James Randi and organised skepticism in general, and the methodology here just baffles me.

    Clearly, the inputs used or not used by the communicator are completely irrelevant. The question is, what happens when you cut off input from the facillitator.

    Hell, I’m almost at the point where I can type two-fingered without looking at the keyboard. If I can see the board out of the corner of my eye I can pretty much type perfectly in this way. With more practice, I could do it with my eyes closed, and while one fingered typing is very hard for me, I can still imagine that I could learn it because the principle is essentially the same.

    I think for me I use spatial awareness; I feel around for the oddly shaped keys (caps lock, shift, etc.) and then estimate the distance from said keys.

    Anyway, it would be nice to know about some studies on FC that actually use a useful methodology.

  21. I’m not autistic, and I touch-type with two fingers, one on my left hand one on my right. I occasionally look at the keyboard but often type quite a few words without, and don’t have any NEED to look down.

    I could never get the hang of ten-finger touch-typing and failed it in school. But I use the computer so much that I just started not looking. It makes complete sense to me that someone could do it with one finger if I do it with two…

  22. Oh, and by the way. Just out of sheer curiosity, I had to try it. I am an extremely fast touch typist — have been for nearly forty years. I figured I had enough of a map of the keyset in my head. I used your “this is easy” sentence. I not only looked away, I shut my eyes. I had it in five tries. I could do it all the time if I practiced. Ever since we were real little there have been certain things that adults have told us or that we’ve read somewhere, “Nobody can really ___” or “Of course, ____ is impossible,” and our immediate reaction is cynicism and a need to investigate by trying it for ourselves. This was one of them.

  23. I can remember being told that something (related to climbing something, which was one of my strong points as a kid) was impossible for children, and immediately doing it, in front of my whole class. The teacher, who had said it was impossible, had his back turned, and was convinced that everyone who said they saw me do it must be lying, apparently particularly because it was me.

  24. I guess I was surprised to read that part in gettingthetruthout, in the sense that you would be surprised when a person says they type x-words a minute with x being some really big number.
    But being an abysmally bad typist, I had no problem believing that another person could type in ways unimaginable to me. I read about people (old newsmen for example) who type 2-fingered, and rapidly. I know other people who touch-type rapidly with 10 fingers, without looking. A combination could be difficult, but why should it be impossible?!

    If we are used to lots of people being able to do (even everyday) stuff that we can’t do well or fast, does that make us more able to accept other people’s extraordinary skills as a matter-of-fact thing instead of something to be debunked?
    Do “normal” people think they do everything well, or what!? That can’t be…

  25. “The best way to ensure that there is no bias from the facilitator that I have seen is to test the person having difficulty by showing only them (and not the facilitator) a series of objects and then have them use the facilitator to describe what they’ve seen.”

    But even that may get people who are really communicxating dismissed. Here are some ways:
    a) if they have word-finding difficulties, though asking them to describe rather than name the object, or asking “was it an X?” might be an effective work-around for that. See http://home.vicnet.net.au/~dealcc/Spaut3.htm (you have to scroll down a bit).
    b) if there’s partial facilitator influence, for example when they start writing something that’s “clearly wrong” the facilitator corrects them, they may do so even if it’s them who are wrong.
    c) another issue is that depending on who’s doing the testing, it can make it harder or easier to FC accurately. Amanda Baggs said a similar thing, in more general terms, at http://www.autistics.org/library/more-autistic.html (click on “people nearby”)

  26. this is easy.

    I typed that without looking. At first I kept backspacing, mostly because I tried to type too fast, but with a combination of motor memory and visual representation I could do it. It wasn’t easy, however. And I found it impossible to resit looking at the keyboard on a couple occasions, but didn’t type until I looked away again.

  27. i am typing this with my eyes closed, its not that difficult. Im not autistic, (although one neurologist thought i had aspergers) but i do have a.d.d. and i do know how it feels for peopel to almost refuse to try to comprehend what your saying. For instance, I have genuine and significant difficulty listening to a teacher speak for more than 7 minutes, or to anything im not interested in, but i can sit for hours studying something that does interest me. Of course other people use that to argue that I can focus “fine when I want to” and many people think this disorder isnt real. People want to know whats its like, to have ADD. Usually i get a sentence or out before im interupted and told that im wrong and then listen to their “Theory” on “whats really wrong with me” Yes, I explain, I purposefully and willfully ignore what my teachers are saying becuase i enjoy failing classes, and like the extra money from all that Adderall i sell on th side. Sorry for the long response. I think no matter what i say or how many times i say it people will think whatever is more convenient or takes the least amount of divergance from their veiws.

  28. Actually Id liek to add an interesting note, by dr, Manuel Casanova, whose says in a recent paper that in autism mincolumns are smaller yet more numerous(than controls), which rather conveniantly means greater ability to process details but trouble forming a coherent whole, and in a.d.d minolumns are larger, yet less numerous, and this would have the opposite effect. Thats sounds rather simplistic, and it is, but i think it represents one of the rare times in biology where a case is so …simple. I think im rambling..again sorry IM not really sure if you care what im talking about, just my opinion

  29. Although, I’ve heard that when autistic people are actually tested properly, we are able to perceive both details and the big picture. Not sure how that fits into the minicolumns thing except thins possibly being more complex than that.

  30. I would judge anyone a fool that says it’s impossible to find where keys are without looking (one-fingered, with autism or otherwise). Pianists do the same on a much larger scale all the time, have these people ever spoken to a virtuoso pianist? I was never a great pianist but at one point even I could one-fingered hit any key on the piano without looking, this could be at a distance measured in feet! Admittedly I am sure not everyone can do this, but I am also sure it is not solely attributable to savant syndrome. I am an excellent touch typist (42000kph at best) and can also accurately type one fingered without looking

  31. I just came back to reading this post again today. At the time I was confused as to why it was even considered an issue. I can remember in high school that we were corrected if we even LOOKED at the typewriter. The goal was to type without looking. So why be critical of someone who is doing that ? I think the main issue is “how dare you autistic people do something better than us NT people and do it without having to do through the training we did ?” That if you learned all this on your own without taking classes etc why then maybe all these special ed systems (as determined by NT professionals NOT by those who need the services themselves) might not needed. AND there would be a lot of people out of a job and lose all that control over those “low functioning handicapped “.

  32. I learned touch-typing by sitting in a computer lab from the ages of 9 to 12 and using a typing tutor program. But I picked up one-finger typing without looking pretty easily later on too. Just don’t want to leave you with the impression that I learned typing on my own.

  33. Interesting how they appeal to “common knowledge.” I don’t know anything about them, or about “organised skepticism.” But it doesn’t seem very skeptical to make such an appeal. For my part, I would also question the “skepticism” of any organized system of belief. I think of skepticism as being unafraid to question–in particular, to question so-called “common sense.” Not a desire to “de-bunk” anything one can’t see for oneself.

  34. Ann:

    If I understand correctly: I think what confuses some people is that the only kind of “touch-typing-without-looking-at-the-keyboard” that most people know is the standard 10 fingered system. I think most people who type with one or two fingers look at the keyboard more (I wouldn’t know; I usually use the more standard 10 finger system, though I’ve had to modify it in the past three weeks because of an injury to multiple fingers–still mostly without looking). So many people just assume that one or two finger typing NECESSARILY requires one to look at the keyboard to see where you are.

  35. My church is going to fire me when they find out I don’t really play the organ, since I don’t look at the keys when I am playing! Tee hee. I can type this is easy (which I just did right there) without looking. But I didn’t realize I could do it until I did it just now! since I use nonstandard typing, my own version that I’ve made up and can’t explain to anyone including myself. I hunt and peck really fast! Over the years I guess I’ve done less hunting and more pecking. I use mostly 3 fingers from each hand, with an occasional pinky thrown in for good measure.

  36. This article makes this same assumption, that one-finger without looking at the keyboard typing is impossible:


    I have always found a connotation difference between “debunk” and “skeptic”. To me, a skeptic is someone who will not take things for granted to be true without some kind of evidence or proof, whereas a debunker has acquired a belief as to the validity of some idea and is selectively skeptical to things that contradict that belief.

  37. To me, a skeptic is someone who will not take things for granted to be true without some kind of evidence or proof, whereas a debunker has acquired a belief as to the validity of some idea and is selectively skeptical to things that contradict that belief.

    Yeah… The problem is that I’ve run into too many self-professed “skeptics” who are actually “debunkers,” and let their ableism (or other prejudices) guide their conclusions about what is or is not likely to be true, then insist that their conclusions are unbiased because they have the right ideology. Critical thinking is not an excuse to be an elitist ableist jerk (or any other kind of -ist). It should be a method of self-defense, not a reason to act like a bully.

    Basically… I have a problem when people’s “skepticism” becomes a condescending paternalism that runs over the actual lives and voices of disabled people (and when the people doing this condescending-skepticism stuff have a lot of power and privilege they’ve never even bothered to examine, or even realized the fact that the power relationships between them and the people they’re trying to debunk as hoaxes or gullible fools are massively unequal). I touched on it vaguely in this post that I made recently, which is not quite as serious as some of the FC debates, but still wholly dismisses an accomodation we’ve gotten help from, on inadequate grounds.

    It seems like some people, instead of trying to stay thoughtful and skeptical, have this widget they call “skepticism” and apply it in kind of a sledgehammerish way to anything anyone else with this widget says isn’t scientific or worthy of consideration. Whenever anyone suggests it might be worthy of consideration after all, it gets compared to magic or Ouija boards or “crystal healing” or whatever, even though there’s a massive distance between “this doesn’t seem to work the way its promoters claimed it did” and “this isn’t even worth investigating scientifically.”

    When it’s just a matter of online debates, it’s just annoying to deal with; when something like whether someone is considered to be a communicating person or not is at stake, there’s so much wrong with that attitude that I can’t even begin to describe it. And I say this as a person who loves science– I just don’t want to let that love and respect blind me to the fact that it really can be used to oppress people, if used in the wrong way. (The fact that my existence could and probably would be labeled a delusion, needing to be therapized or drugged away, if the wrong people found out about it, only increases my sense of that.)

  38. Huh. I didn’t know that typing with two index fingers while looking away from the keyboard was so unusual, much less considered to be impossible.

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