Self Expression through Typing - Yael Cohen
Self expression through typing (writing on the computer keyboard) is an innovative method for self expressive writing which was developed by Yael Cohen. This method makes it possible to connect input and output in individuals suffering from autism. It enables them to point accurately at letters on a keyboard which form words and thus express inner thoughts. This method is aimed primarily at minimally verbal autistic individuals. It makes it possible for them to express their inner world – thoughts, ideas, desires, feelings and their attitude to the outside world.
When exposed to this method, the learner undergoes a complex process which includes learning the technique of typing, the development of verbal and communicative expression, and, above all, dealing with the process of self revelation with all its gains and difficulties. It is a very vulnerable process whereby the learner reveals himself both to himself and to his environment.
The development of this ability in people suffering from autism and dispraxis - to type independently with concentration - demands constant practice leading to a high level of consciousness, cognitive focusing and physical control, while internalizing the motor steps which make possible the exact action. Already from the beginning stages of this process the typing is done by the client, without assistance. And if, at the beginning, the writing is not entirely coherent, what is important in this phase is that the typing is being done completely autonomously. Coherence improves with practice.
A Place for Self Expression is a center located in Herzlia, Israel. Here autistic children and adolescents come daily in order to learn this system of Self Expression through typing. They have individual instruction and also meet in small groups. In A Place for Self Expression they carry on conversations, sometimes on a one to one basis with an instructor, and sometimes in group discussions where two or three youngsters sit together and "converse". This conversation makes it possible to discuss various subjects in a way which would have been impossible previously. It is possible to analyze complex inner processes taking place, to learn something about difficulties and frustrations, and to try and find ways to overcome them. One of the main issues is trying to find ways of connecting the will to communicate, and the implementation of that will (a cognitive process).
The method of Yael Cohen for self expression through typing with autistic children and adolescents engenders a huge change in the lives of these non-verbal autistic individuals:
. Perceptual and diagnostic change in the lives of autistic individuals on the low and middle range of the syndrome.
. Development of more relevant diagnostic methods
. Differentiation between functional and cognitive definitions
. Changes in treatment
.Changes in attitudes towards this population on the part of professionals, families and educational staffs
. Changes in special school curriculum
. Finding more suitable vocational placement for autistic youngsters in accordance with their true abilities and wishes
The dialogue created among the autistics in A Place for Self Expression is completely unique. We find here a true desire for cooperation, mutual help, encouragement and support of the individual by the group. The change engendered by this self expressive typing spills over into many other areas of life.
We believe that this method of working can make a meaningful contribution towards making the lives of non verbal autistics more whole, producing more satisfaction, reducing frustration, enabling them to live their lives more fully and meaningfully. The hidden worlds revealed to us daily in the course of our work of typing with these individuals and groups suggests that we are just at the beginning of a long and meaningful journey.