Typing is helping a boy with autism communicate

Jamie Ponsonby
Image caption Jamie was locked in his world

Jamie Ponsonby cannot speak, and for years he was trapped in his own world.

But his family taught him to type and now the 13-year-old, who has autism, can not only express himself, but also write poetry.

His mother, Serena, said this had enabled them to finally communicate with Jamie and to understand him better.

"We had no idea that there was a person in there who knew everything," she said.

Humorous and emotional

"Through the typing we have discovered he knows all sorts of things.

"He is completely on the ball, his sense of humour is completely all there. He has beautiful poetry, his feelings and emotions are all perfectly normal and above average for his age."

Richard Mills, Research Autism's research director, said that cases like Jamie's are relatively unusual.

He said a method called facilitated intervention was first introduced in Australia in the 1970s, where someone supports a client's hand, wrist or arm while that person uses a communicator to spell out words, phrases or sentences.

But Mr Mills said this had proved highly controversial when it was independently reviewed.

But he said independent typing did work for some.

"We know that people with autism often need a lot of processing time.

"They need things to be visual, so words typed via a keyboard tend to be better."

Serena, from London, said that although Jamie's typing is slow - it took him two weeks to type his autism poem - he is speeding up and needs less prompting to write.

She realised there was a problem with her son when he was around 18 months old.

"He was diagnosed at two-and-a-half, but from 18 months I knew something was not right. He used to love music but he would start screaming when I took him to music lessons," she said.

Over the next few years Jamie lost more and more skills, including speech. He had limited signing ability, so communication became difficult.

Serena said: "We started him typing at nine after I read a book about someone who found it easier to type, even though she could talk.

"It struck a chord and I thought maybe it would just be a different pathway.

"We started getting him to type the words he knew how to sign and made very, very slow progress. We often thought of giving up.

"After a couple of years he started reading signs and we saw that he could read.

"We started asking him questions and he would type all sorts of things we had no idea he knew.

"As a family it has allowed us to know there is someone there who knows everything that is going on.

"He loves going travelling, and if you know he is getting something out of it your patience is increased.

"You don't talk to him as someone who doesn't understand - his self esteem and confidence are miles better."

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