For “Have Coffee Will Write”


This is for “Have Coffee Will Write” and others who have questioned whether I wrote my video. But please see my last few posts and the stuff they link to if you’re inclined to view this as utterly amazing or something. And also please don’t dismiss FC out of hand just because I don’t usually use it (only usually when exhausted or overloaded enough that I really need help either finding my arm or keeping it from jamming itself downward too much to type), it has a legitimate role in communication for a lot of people.

(For anyone wondering, this is the fastest rate I type, not the only rate — or way — I type.)

[Edited to add: I don’t have other people around when I make videos, so I can’t be handling the camera and typing at the same time. Normally I set the camera — which is a tiny digital camera — on an object, and then do the video. I with rare exceptions don’t like making videos in front of staff. And when I’m trying to write something really fast it’s not going to come out the same as it does when I write in long paragraphs for a blog; most people’s casual speech does not resemble their formal writing.]

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

23 responses »

  1. While I can see the value in FC for some people, it seems that the most widely-known (and most thoroughly-debunked) usage of FC is for the assistance of people who clearly have no ability to form thoughts on their own. I remember seeing several news pieces and so on regarding FC which showed autistic children who were clearly not even looking at the keyboard (with the FC clearly and quite forcefully moving the child’s finger at the keys like some sort of button-mashing device), as well as descriptions of several studies performed wherein a completely non-communicative autistic (if you’ll pardon the expression; I know you disagree with that term but I can’t think of a better one at the moment) was shown a different image from what the facilitator was shown, and the facilitator would never help the autistic type in the correct answer.

    It’s good to know that FC is actually helpful for some, including someone who clearly does have coherent thoughts, but it seems like for every case where FC is used as a tool to help someone who is legitimately able to communicate, there are a dozen cases where it’s used as a charlatan’s device for giving desperate parents false hope about being able to “awaken” their child.

  2. My apologies, I wrote that comment before I read far back enough in your weblog to find that you’d already debunked much of what I said. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  3. I totally agree FC can be done right or wrong (I’ve had facilitated movements — not typing — influenced in bad ways by people who didn’t know they were doing it). I’m not sure how you tell from outside whether someone’s unable to form thoughts though, and certainly I know people besides me who can type one-fingered (whether independently or not) without looking.

  4. Hello,

    I have been looking at your videos for the last few days. You are brilliant and courageous. My older sister is a researcher on ‘augmented’ speech. (Is that what you call it?) She has her PHD in Speech therapy and works at Cental Michigan University in Mount Pleasent, MI.

    You seem to just body forth the typed words. I do that with drawing.
    I am an artist in Phoenix. I am intersted in Drawing as a language and wordless language. Lately I have been looking at ‘the space between the artist and the work.’

    Well, Thank you for being you and letting me enter into your world a bit.
    PS I first put this on an older date…I am not really blog savvy!

  5. Forgive a non-autie with CP for briefly weiging in here, but I have to say…”not even looking at the keyboard” is not a judge of whether or not someone is engaged. Many of the phone customer service jobs I do absolutely require paying attention to several things at one time and while you are paying attention to thing A, and also typing, you aren’t always looking at the screen. (as I was not when I typed this comment.)

    I Love This Blog. Thank you for sharing.

  6. About the only thing I was surprised or impressed by was, you must have good wrists. :) (My mom has good wrists. I don’t. I notice that kind of thing. I’m not sure I’d be physically capable of typing like that, and it would be my wrists that would be the problem. But my mom’s body frame is a little closer to yours than mine is, so it might just be a body frame thing.)

    I love it when you put up videos. I don’t like videos so much in general, but I like yours.

  7. Touch typing, as it was taught when I was in school, aimed at allowing the typist to type without ever looking at the keyboard, only at the material being transcribed. (This was in the days when secretaries typed out dictated memos on IBM Selectrics.)

    IOW, a good touch typist would NEVER look at the keyboard–only at the source material or the document being typed.

  8. Yes, but what evidence do we have that those were YOUR hands attached to your arms???? HUH? Have your wrists been examined by a qualified ABA therapist? (kidding)… Good grief you’re a good typist. If I don’t look at the screen while I’m typing, I make a thousand mistakes, if I look at the screen I make about a hundred. I’m never as fast as you are. I do a lot of back spacing…. Once I tried to type while looking at the ceiling and without keeping my hands on the keyboard like you did in that one video… I couldn’t do get a sensible word typed.

  9. I was mainly typing in that position so my head wouldn’t be blocking the screen, normally I use the computer either from my wheelchair or the beach chair I bashed into and knocked over (that was the loud clatter) in the video. (The beach chair being for when I have trouble sitting upright.)

  10. When I do things that require much use of my fingers, my focus switches so strongly over to them that I don’t actually use my eyes much at all… If my eyes don’t close, my gaze will wander all over the place and often settle in some random direction to seemingly “stare” for some period of time, but I’m not consciously seeing anything. The more I do have to use my eyes, the more my performance degrades — it makes “typing tests” virtually impossible to do well on for me, even though I type extremely quickly when staring off into space.

  11. *Hmmm*. With the caveat that I know ‘looking after’ can be difficult-to-impossible: look after your wrists, & if necessary use the keyboard a little less. If not for your own sake, though that’d be good, then because you’ll need them in workable condition to *keep on* doing this in the future. I don’t think the need’s going to evaporate.

  12. “There are people being tortured, people dying because they are considered non-persons because their kind of thought is so unusual as to not be considered thought at all. Only when the many shapes of personhood are recognized will justice and human rights be possible.”

    You have no idea how much this meant to those of us who are “different” where it DOESN’T neccessarily show on the outside.

    Are you familiar with this one? As more and more time goes on the more I realize it applies to ability level and lifestyle every bit as much as it applies to race and class:

    “We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary!”

  13. Hello.
    I wanted to comment, and hope I do not offend. I am in awe. Now when i say this, please refrain from offense. I am in awe because I do my best to be of assistance to people labelled as Autistic. I am in awe because I now believe that some of the assistance I provide is lacking. I have always thought that those I support have way more to say than I can understand, and am always trying to understand a way to provide that outlet. So when I say I am in awe, its not at your ability, its that you have managed to find a method of communication that is understandable, and a way that those of us with a different understanding can relate to. I wish I could assist some of the individuals (children) that I support to gain a voice in this regard. I would love to learn more about how and if you were assisted in your learning, and if not, what was available to you in order to learn to type, and communicate in this manner. I am thinking of three individuals specifically, and I know that they are trying hard to communicate, but I feel as if I am speaking an alien tongue, and i sure don’t understand what they are trying to tell me. I plan to look further into your site, and some of your links in the coming days.
    Thanks for sharing yourself with the world, and I liked seeing the videos you have provided. You have broadened my mind with some of what I have read from you.
    Thanks, and if you could provide some insight into how you learned to type and communicate, I would appreciate it, I realise every single person on earth is different, but maybe if I provide the opportunity, I will give one of my charges a better chance at communication the rest of us can understand.

  14. I am not autistic and certainly can type without looking at the keyboard as can most of you. I can even do better using a communication device where the letters are in alphabetical order. I picture the keyboard in my mind, and therefore know where the letters are. That said, I have worked with individuals with autism who invariably select the correct novel responses without ever looking at the material. It is as if they are assessing the material from outside themselves. I believe the process is very complex and all the variables need to be studied.
    If you are interested in my ideas on what I believe might be occurring, google my name or check out my website.

    Mary Ann Harrington

  15. I am typing in my son’s name and addresss. I came across this website. My son is autisic and I think he feels alone. He has tremendous thoughts and ideas he wants to get out…yet, I feel his frustration. He feels boxed in and he wants to be heard. I am sending his email so that he can see that there are ways to speak to the world and let the world know his ideas and thoughts. There are others out there like him.

    Thank you so much!

    Wendy Stephens

  16. I use FC in my practice as a marriage & family counselor. I have fc’d with many individuals, including some who have speech, but are unable to communicate what they mean verbally. I guess I can be seen as a ‘charlatan’ who gives parents ‘false hope,’ except my focus is never on the parents, but only on the individual I am counseling with. Frankly, I think that people with autism or other cognitive disorders have the right to have psychotherapy for themselves, not for the benefit of others. I don’t do therapy with individuals because other people have problems with their ‘behaviors.’ I only see individuals who would like counseling for their own benefit. I’ve spend hours and hours using FC and believe me, I’m not so interesting or clever that I would be able to conjure up the things they tell me.
    I could go on and on, but then I suppose I should start my own blog. There are many voices to hear and many ways to hear them. I’m greatful for those such as yourself, who can type independently for demonstrating your competence and also noting that sometimes you need assistance from others in order to communicate. Don’t we all.

  17. The thinga bout FC and not looking at the keyboard is that the person is using one finger only, which is lifted completely from the keybord between each keystroke. Typing without looking requires constant re-orientation to reference keys specially marked (F and J) to remind you where you are. NO ONE, not even the best of touch-typists, can type anything legible the way many FC users claim to be able to do, using one finger and not looking at the board.

    And Melinda, the whole point about the effect is that it is *unconscious*, like an ouija board; you could write a novel and never believe that it came from you.

  18. Oh dammit, this is what I get for not reading Amanda’s other posts. Hmm… if so many autistics are capable of non-looking one-fingered typing, you need to compile a massive collection of demonstrations.

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