Change, However Little, Is Always Felt
Too Much in the Sun

Typing in His Very Charlie Way

Charlie loves a Jersey City ride

Amid bike riding (22 miles on Sunday for a 50 miles weekend), walking, pacing, stomping in certain areas of the house where the floor has lines (hardwood floor or linoleum squares), and of course, eating (including a frozen fry and apple snack at 11pm because a teenage boy's clock is, truly, in his belly), Charlie has been typing on his iPad.

Lest I give you the wrong impression and you think he is typing phrases and sentences to express wants, states of mind and conversation, he is typing two-word phrases beginning with 'teletubbies' and about 25 (give or take) nouns, verbs, adjectives or prepositions (most in English) that I have discovered are good search terms for a good range of Teletubbies videos. He is also only typing into the little search box on the YouTube app.

It's not proto-communication by any means. It's to watch snippets of Teletubbie videos that the three of us have been watching for 13 years, give or take. I know them by heart as I am sure Charlie does and as he scans the rows of videos I think of Iris Murdoch at the end of her life with Alzheimer's watching Teletubbies and The Fire and the Sun.

Is it useful? Better than nothing?

Oughtn't I to be shaping it into something else, trying to have Charlie type on the Notes or Pages app or showing him the words on a piece of paper?

It's a something of a yes answer to all. I've often thought that if we could find some format that provided Charlie with a motivation to write or read, it might be the key. Perhaps we have found it, or something on the way to it; it is not likely that Charlie will encounter the word 'Teletubbies' too much out in the world.

From all the repetition, he can type 'Teletubbies' on his own as well as 'favorite' and 'Kinderreime,' these being words I had found useful for finding videos he liked, when he was typing on a laptop before he had the iPad. 'Kinderreime' is German for 'nursery rhyme': There is a Teletubbies nursery rhymes video that Charlie loved when he was little and, one day, I had thought to search in foreign languages for videos, on the theory that such would be more likely to elude the copyright police. 

He is also close to typing 'tree' on his own. I can see him smiling sometimes when typing in 'favorite' and 'Kinderreime,' pleased that he is typing on his own.

Where will it lead?

I have been refraining from imposing too much didactic mom-order on Charlie's typing. I've done that before with some things and killed them, undoing Charlie's interest and most likely confusing him with my teacherly ways. Last night I had him type Barney with another word but the results were not of purple dinosaurs but someone's dog.

So 'type B ocean' remains for Teletubbie videos. We've been having a few sessions a day of this, often before bed and the trick is that I be willing to sit with Charlie as he types and types and types. It hasn't yet occurred to him, he could just do it on his own and so I feel like Annie Sullivan may have, or an anamensis.

I am enjoying it. Few have been the times that Charlie has ever shown interest in the written, the typed word.




I just tried typing Barney ocean in the youtube type box and it came up with Barney ocean songs! I have often inadvertently killed Dimitri's interest in things with my over enthusiasm to make things more "meaningful" (to me that is, I know, big mistake).

I think it's pretty darn cool, for a whole bunch of reasons, that Charlie's typing!

Brenda (mamabegood)

Yes - to the encouraging, but not interfering so as to quash their own internal motivation. I know that's right.

Also - since we do unschooling and I read unschoolers' blogs, I must note that one woman learned to read as an 11-year old (she was NT) when she wanted to buy Barbies off of eBay.

And - I know Jack is a 3-D, experiential learner. 2-D and visual processing is very difficult. I just found this link about alternative pencils and got excited b/c we can allow ppl to write using 3D methods. I've ordered felt letters to try with Jack and I'm going to order Montessorri sandpaper block letters, too. Just so he can have different media.

Here's the link to the resources from Certain Proof, but if you haven't looked at the whole site, it's fascinating.


When Russ moved into self-contained last year I demanded that the "today is, we are doing" journalling be removed. He has 2 writing sessions/day these last couple of years and will continue into next.

1. Description of the picture. This is to practice proper writing skills.

2. Whatever you want. This was very difficult since btwn ABA and the school he didn't know he could write whatever he wanted. His Teacher worked hard to teach him he could write whatever he wanted... started by typing whatever he said for him and moving away from the keyboard... it took MONTHS.

His fav typing is logos, tv/movie companies, sounds etc.

His fav typing venue is writing with symbols... why... it plays it back for him. He can hear it, he can save it to his DSi (he does amazing things on that toy and nobody taught him how), the CD is right here beside the computer and he can use it whenever he wants.

IMO the most important skill you can teach him... to figure things out for himself. To learn on your own without being trained.

Kristina Chew

@Emma, I will try Barney + word combos again!

@Brenda, thank you for the link! Charlie is definitely a 3-d learned too. Still struggles to identify line drawings.

@farmwifetwo, agreed and I think Charlie is indeed doing so. Good point about not knowing one can write whatever one wants -- I don't think Charlie has quite grasped yet that he can do that; he wants me to dictate to him what to type. I'll see where it all evolves.

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