Can Teaching Children With Autism Typing Skills Help Them Communicate?

Could teaching your child with autism typing skills be the key to unlock her ability to interact with others? You may never know until you try it.

I was first interested in teaching my son to do this after seeing a documentary by Sue Rubin, called Autism is a World.   Sue Rubin, a young woman with autism, had learned to communicate using a computer that is small enough to carry around.


A young man named Tito who has autism also learned to communicate this way.   His mother, Soma Mukhopadhyay, started HALO, an organization that teaches children with autism using the Rapid Prompting Method.

My interest in teaching my son this skill was renewed when I heard about a young woman named Carly Fleischmann.  Carly, who is nonverbal and was diagnosed with severe autism, amazed her therapists and her parents when she ran to a computer and typed three words to express her needs. 

Take a look at this footage to see how she learned to communicate.

After seeing these examples of people with autism typing on a keyboard to communicate, I have begun giving this method a serious try. 

Of course there are no guarantees.  I don’t know of any studies that have been done to prove the effectiveness of this strategy in helping people with autism learn to communicate.

But that won’t stop me from trying this and other promising strategies.

So I’m writing this article to see if you’d like to join me in trying this with our kids.  Each of us may get different results, some better than others because every child is different.

But I believe it's worth the effort. Consider what this could mean, and you’ll understand why I'm excited about this. 

Teaching Children With Autism Typing Skills Could Open Up Their Communication With the World

Motor planning is the ability to come up with a sequence of new actions and then to carry out those actions.

Our kids with autism often have a lot of difficulty with motor planning in regard to speech.

For children who are nonverbal, the goal is to give them a way to communicate with others.

For children with echolalia, the goal is to bridge the gap between repeating memorized words and coming up with their own words to say.

So the question is,

How Can We Accomplish These Goals?

I think the logical approach will be essentially the same for children who are nonverbal as for those who have echolalia.

There are a number of ways you could teach your child this skill.

You could start small by having her learn single words.  Show her a picture or an object and say, “What is this?”  Once she learns a list of 10 words, you could have her learn 10 more words.  When she’s ready,  you could have her learn to key in simple sentences, and later on, more complex sentences.

Whenever she's ready, you could have a conversation with her on the computer.  You could ask questions for her to answer, and have her ask you questions that you can answer. 

It’s also a good idea to make use of each time your child wants something.  If he wants an orange, you can have him key in “orange” or “I want an orange.”

These are just some thoughts to get you started.  You might come up with other ideas as you progress.

Bear in mind that regardless of how you decide to teach these lessons, you will need lots of patience.  Some children will need lots of practice and help with spelling words and making sentences.

Carly Fleischmann’s therapists reward her typing with chips, and Carly recommends the same kind of reward system for others learning this skill.  Of course, you’ll want to use whatever reward would motivate your child. 

How Effective Will This Therapy Be?

It’s hard to say since children are all so different from one another.

This training may be the one key to unlocking their interaction with the world. 

Or it may be just another step in the process.  Some children may need other therapies as well.

But whether it’s the only method needed or one of many techniques required, I believe this will be a worthwhile therapy for many children with autism. 

If you'd like to learn more, check out this article by Pediastaff for more techniques for teaching children with autism typing skills.

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