Lately, I am reading more and more about people with autism who are non-verbal or have very limited verbal abilities using typing to show that they have far more going on in their heads that anyone would have guessed. Now, I do believe that Janey, and a lot of kids, have far more in their minds than they can express. That is part of autism---that what a person with autism knows is not always easy to get at. And I know that sometimes with Janey, she needs a hand over her hand to get her started in picking the right answer. I also know it's EXTREMELY hard, when I do this, to keep from nearly unconsciously guiding her to the right answer. Sometimes I'm almost sure I'm not, but then I realize I am. Then I step back and make sure what I am doing is just a very light touch to get her started. I have started closing my eyes when doing this, to keep from being able to guide her. Or I put up something between me and the screen she is seeing, to make sure I don't guide her. And when I do this, she gets a lot less answers right. I don't EVER want to delude myself into thinking Janey can do things she can't. This is because that does her a HUGE disservice. I value Janey for who she is, not who I wish she was.
I know this is a very touchy area. And I know that some people with autism type independently, and I know some people start out with what is called Facilitated Communication (read about it here) and then move on to typing on their own. And I think it's possible that some people communicating through FC (as it's nicknamed) are truly typing their own thoughts. But I am skeptical. Saying I am skeptical means something hugely different than saying I don't believe people. It means I want proof. I think in this particular situation, proof is something hugely important. It makes a huge difference in Janey's life. If people with autism that appear to be even lower functioning than Janey are able to go to college and write poetry and so on using FC, then I need to rearrange my thinking about Janey. But I am not going to do that on faith, and the history of proving FC is true so far is pretty checkered.
This article is what got me thinking---it has a lot of interesting information. (see it here)
I don't ever want to say that I don't believe people. And that is not what I am saying. I am saying that I am a huge stakeholder in the task of finding out exactly what people with autism are capable of. I don't just have an academic interest. I have a heartfelt, extremely personal interest. I don't wish to tell anyone else what to do, what to believe, what to think. I would never want to do that. My work, my life's task, is to let Janey be what she can be, what she can truly be, and to celebrate her for that.