FOCUSING ON THE KEYBOARD
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.
In the following example, the author tried to type the words "facilitated
The following used conventional touch typing:
facilitated communication 25/25 correct characters
The second try used one finger searching for the correct key with both eyes on the
facilitated communication 25/25 correct
The third try was a repeat of the second, except that head was tilted upwards so that
the keyboard disappeared totally from view. It was not visible even with peripheral
vision. My finger occasionally bridged two keys; in these cases, I chose what I felt was
the most likely key.
vxvl/ptsyec vpm<umkvsyo[, 4/25 correct
The fourth try was a repeat of the third.
gwfo'06w54rnbinbunkfztopm 4/25 correct
The fifth try was a repeat of the third, except that my head was titled upwards slightly
so that I could still see the keyboard at the extremes of my peripheral vision
gsvppyszrfd comnyjovstipm 7/25 correct
The sixth try was a repeat of the fifth.
fscukiraredbs8jj6g8sq479h 6/25 correct
For this test, 100% accuracy was possible only if the typer aimed
their finger directly at the keyboard. If the keyboard is totally invisible, the results
were poor (16% correct). If the keyboard is visible in the typer's peripheral vision, the
results were better (26% correct). This is a simple test that anyone can verify in a few
minutes on their own keyboard. As mentioned above, this is common knowledge; we are not
breaking new ground here. These results would not necessarily be valid for persons with
autism. There is a belief that they might have superior peripheral vision when compared to
persons with normal communication skills.
If a FC session involves the facilitator
looking directly at the keyboard and the client staring at the ceiling, then it can
reasonably be concluded that the actual character selection is being done by the
facilitator. The facilitator is communicating, not the person being facilitated. Thus, if
any important communication is to be attempted, it seems obvious that an independent
observer (or a TV camera) should record the session to record when the client is looking
at the keyboard.
R.T. Carroll sums this up neatly:
"FC clients routinely use a flat board or keyboard, over which their pointing
finger is held by the facilitator. Even the most expert typist could not routinely hit
correct letters without some reference as a starting point. (Try looking away from your
keyboard and typing a sentence using just one finger held in the air above the keyboard.)
Facilitators routinely look at the keyboard; clients do not. The messages' basic coherence
indicate they must be produced by someone who is looking at the keyboard. The conclusion
seems inevitable." (1)