Touch Typing: One Way MS Has Affected My Hands

Touch Typing: One Way MS Has Affected My Hands

I used to type pretty fast. Growing up, I remember taking computer classes that (among other things) focused a lot on the proper way to type. Each of your 8 fingers and 2 thumbs were supposed to rest on specific keys and were responsible for reaching out to hit others on the row above and below. Eventually, with enough practice, I was able to type out an entire sentence without looking down at the keyboard! This is called touch typing, and people who have mastered this technique can type out an entire essay without ever looking down at the keyboard and instead looking up at the screen. This is essential to practicing the best ergonomic posture when using a computer so that the user does not experience a lot of the strains and pains you might associate with spending too much time online.

typing without looking at the keyboard

I never really mastered touch typing though because I didn’t like the form of each finger being responsible for specific keys. It just didn’t feel “natural” to me. I had my own way of typing and could almost double my typing speed (measured in WPM, words per minute) by using “my own form,” but one thing that remained the same was my ability to type without looking down at the keyboard.

That has drastically changed

Since the time I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), that has drastically changed. First, I slowly stopped using certain fingers to type because it was getting harder to coordinate them. My pinky fingers were the first to retire as they would reach out to hit a key but end up missing. I guess this might be more of an issue with proprioception, like when the doctor asks you to close your eyes and touch the tip of your nose with each index finger? It’s like my brain would think that my pinky was in one place but it was actually in another, causing me to hit the wrong key. Eventually, it seemed to progress from my pinkies inward until I was mostly using my middle and pointer fingers as well as my thumbs to do the bulk of my typing. I could still type with my other fingers if I looked down at the keyboard, so I could actually see where they were and where I wanted them to go, but I was trying to maintain my ability to type while looking at the computer screen.

Losing that ability altogether

But eventually I lost that ability, too; I could not type even a single word without looking down at the keyboard, because now? If I stare at the screen while trying to type, I just can’t tell where my fingers actually are! Looking down at the keyboard may not seem like a big deal, but your head is really heavy and keeping it faced down towards your keyboard puts a lot of strain on your neck (ouch) and can even lead to upper back pain, both of which I was experiencing. I eventually figured out how to better position my keyboard and monitor to help prevent some of this pain but it took a lot of trial and error, and it was extra frustrating because all I could think was, “this is all because of my MS.”

When your body doesn’t listen

It didn’t stop there either; now, it’s getting to the point where sometimes looking down at the keyboard is not even enough to keep me typing error-free. Sometimes it feels like I am just randomly mashing keys with fingers that won’t position themselves how I want, or that randomly spasm causing me to hit a bunch of keys all at once. Sometimes it feels like my fingers are literally tripping over themselves. As far as proprioception, there are times where I can be staring directly at a finger and where I want it to go, but even still, it ends up hitting the wrong key. It’s so frustrating to look at part of your own body while trying to send a signal to it to do something and watch it not listen. It’s also annoying to have to hit “backspace” so often! That key is going to wear out and stop working first, I just know it!

Trying different solutions

I have, of course, tried various speech-to-text solutions, and while there were a few times in my life with MS that this was a godsend that allowed me to operate my computer and write down my thoughts, I just don’t like it. I feel like there is just something different about “thinking of a sentence and speaking it” and “thinking of a sentence and typing it. Epecially when my MS can cause me to slur my speech or trip over my words because sometimes the computer will have no idea what I am saying. So, I am doing everything I can to maintain my ability to type, even though I am now not even half as fast, make a million errors, and have to look down at the keyboard which often leads to neck pain.

Hopeful for future accessibility options

I wish there were better accessibility options for people with MS and similar disabilities who have trouble typing but I have searched high and low and haven’t found anything that useful. I have been playing with several customizable keyboards that are back-lit (each key lights up) and have customizable keys that I can replace with textured keys to maybe help me feel them better, but nothing really seems to totally do the trick. I just can’t wait till I can send my thoughts directly to my computer that writes them out in real-time so I can just stop using a keyboard altogether, but I think I’ll have to wait a while for that one. For now, it seems I’ll have to continue focusing on ways to work around my MS so that I can continue to type.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (18)
  • morleyeugena
    2 months ago

    I always do have a problem with typing. Not fast enough in typing. This article helps me lot in writing online or offline. thanks for the post

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 month ago

    Glad you liked it!

  • joannmaxwell
    11 months ago

    I can really relate! I often use voice recognition which I really, really have to proofread. If I have music on in the room that really confuses it. Also, like you say words don’t come out just great, and I t has no idea what I mean. Or I type with one finger on one hand. Keyboards are not meant for that to be easily done.

  • Matt Allen G author
    10 months ago

    Yeah, if I don’t proofread what speech-to-text said before I hit “send” on an email I will see it later and wonder what the heck I was trying to say lol…

  • marigoldg
    11 months ago

    I’m from the old days, when we learned to type on old fashioned IBM typewriters. My fingers flew across the keys and I was able to type over 120 wpm with no errors. While I was in college, I earned extra money by typing papers for law school students. I could turn 30-50 page papers around in less than a couple of hours, so I was able to rack up a significant income in a matter of a weekend.

    When I was in high school, I took every business class, including business machines. I used to break the calculators because I was so fast! My teachers would get frustrated at me because they kept having to bring in new machines. Finally, I was just given other things to do while the rest of the class kept plugging along on their calculators.

    But these days? My fingers stutter on the keyboard. Even though I don’t have to look at the keyboard all the time, I’m often going back and correcting as I watch the letters on the screen. I’m always using the spell checker and I now have to use the grammar check on my word processing program, something I rarely used to have use in the past. I now mix up words or unintentionally drop words.

    Today, I usually turn to Dragon Speak, a speak-to-text program. It takes a while to train it to your voice and method of speaking, but on days when I can’t think or speak clearly, it’s no use at all and I have to give up on anything that involves typing.

    It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. It’s one more thing that MS has taken away from me. Sometimes I feel like my brains are leaking out of my ears because of everything MS continually takes away from me.

  • Matt Allen G author
    10 months ago

    Wow, 120 WPM! I could type fast but not THAT fast. Either way, compared to NOW, my previous typing speeds seem like light-speed typing. But yeah, Dragon worked well UNTIL I would have days where my speech was slurred, so that kind of ruined it for me as it was so emotionally frustrating.

  • Julie
    11 months ago

    I too could zip along the keyboard when typing. Calculators, I worked in accounting so quickly adapted to that as well. Now, I have slowed down considerably and also have finger stutters from my hands shaking. I have installed “Grammarly” on my computer. When I misspell a word it is underlined in red. I go back after finished, hover my cursor over the word and it is automatically corrected. If I didn’t have this little trick, I’m not sure who would be able to read what I have written.

  • Carol
    11 months ago

    marigoldg –

    You sound just like me. Do you remember the IBM manual typewriters? Going fast on those meant your keys are all balled up. I also was used to the IBM electric typewriters when it was a breeze to type 120 wpm. I also took every business course in high school like typing, shorthand, bookkeeping. Then, in college, the bookkeeping became accounting. It was a big help to have a typewriter in college to type up all the reports that we had to submit all the time. But, later, I also made money typing up other people’s work from the neighboring law firm. But, trying to type on computers was just not the same. And then, of course, once I realized I had MS, I really could not control my fingers and sometimes my brain. Recently, I have been suffering from cognition problems and everything frustrates me.

  • Azjackie
    11 months ago

    I know I’m getting older when I hear the phrase I can remember. But remember typying on computer.keyboards really makes me feel ancient. Ha!

    First time seeing a computer was 1977, 2nd grade, 7 years old. We had 1 connected in a class one day and watched for a half hour. The teacher only to type a little then we got 5 minutes per student to sit and look but not touch the machine. The gentleman who set it up then disconnected to take to another class year for the same experience. The computer then disappeared from the school.

    I am 47 years old. In grade school, 5th grade age 10, was my typewriter typing class to learn finger positions on keys. Even used a return bar at the end of each line. Accuracy speed typing tests using the phrase “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’s back” because it uses every letter in the alphabet.

    We rolled paper into the machine. Sometimes “sandwiching” carbon paper between two pieces of paper for duplicate copies. Sometimes a few “sandwiches” depending on how many copies requested. No more than 3 copies for the letter hammer strength to strike through.

    Used “liquid paper” to paint over liike fingernail polish or used correction tape to correct an error. Typeovers “typos” graded. My 78 year old Father used a typewriter in the Army. For corrections they typed the letter x over the letter, word, or phrase to correct then continued to type if you were lucky to catch the error while typing or retype the document.

    I didn’t get to use computers with a seperate attached keyboard until high school and you had to take a, what the guys called, a “girly” class named Business Machines.

    Computers had wires to plug in for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse to tap on a specfic area on the screen to highlight to backspace to delete and correct. We bundled the unruly wires using tape or zip ties. Taping the power cord to the floor to prevent trips the distance to a wall outlet.

    In college in 1988 age 18 we were lucky to bring a typewriter rather than rent one per hour in the student union building. I was one of the “lucky ones” plugging in my Brother brand electronic typewriter for my papers. We had fellow students preferably from a differt class (to prevent plagiarism) proofread before submission to the professor. In fact I still have my typewriter. Sears museum artifact.

    My working career continued to use typewriters until 1993. Those historic legal documents can still be seen in the county recorder’s office. Ha!

    How funny and scary the speed technology advances.

  • Carol
    11 months ago

    Azjackie –

    Wow, I remember those carbon copies! In the beginning, we had to use a special eraser on the carbons, all of them, we had to be careful so it didn’t look like a mess. Of course, I remember the correction paper we inserted to get rid of our errors, and then the correction tape, and finally the liquid paper which seemed to get on my fingers and clothes. I don’t think I saw a computer until 1996 or 1997, we were really behind all the other law firms. Unfortunately, I not the long-ago got rid of my electronic typewriter, what a shame.

  • Azjackie
    11 months ago

    I should have proofed a few areas. Ha!

  • potter
    11 months ago

    Of course my typing has slowed dramatically, I am old enough I learned how to type on the old giant manual typewriters. I could type 80 words per minute in my youth. My problem now is that when I read through what I have written I find different words in the sentence than I intended. For instance, I found the word “much” instead of “many” yes, I will find a half of dozen of these in any e-mail I write. I scan them twice to make the corrections before I post it. Potter

  • Matt Allen G author
    10 months ago

    I don’t understand why but I seem to intend (and think I wrote) to write a word like “smarter” or “asking” but actually write “smart” or “ask”, I for some reason leave off the end. It drives me nuts when I am proofreading what I wrote because I could have SWORN that I remember typing the whole thing!

  • rolly
    11 months ago

    thanks for this post. everything you wrote about sounds oh so familiar to me, at least as far as losing the ability to type is concerned.

    i know all about touch typing. i took classes on an electric typewriter when i was in my teens, because i thought the skills would be useful one day, and i liked the idea of being able to type fast and without having to look at the keyboard. that was at a time when there were no or very few computers around, and i certainly didn’t have one.
    the way we were being tought is with colours. the keyboard was divided up into various sections, each allocated to one specific finger. the keys were covered up with colours, each section in a particular colour. so no cheating was possible, to see what letter was hidden under the coloured cap. each finger was responsible for a colour, rather than for particular letters of the alphabet.

    i learrnt fast and mastered it very quickly. in fact, i was always among the very best in my class, and proud of it.

    years later, when i got my first computer, the skill indeed came in handy. i was ligthing fast when typing, and without the need to look down at the keyboard.

    then along came ms, and things changed.

    my typing slowed down, indvidual fingers would go on strike, or i wasnt sure which keys my fingers hit, and what i had written was full of typos or didnt make any sense at all.

    over the years i gradually lost the use of my left hand. it is now sitting in my lap all the time, with no movement left.

    i now type with one single finger of my right hand, which is tedious at times, though on good days (and today is one of those, thankfully) i’ve got some reasonable speed going. light years away from those old days with touch typing, of course, but still.

    i have also tried speech to text software and made the same experience as you. i dont like it. i find it hard to form a sentence in mny had and speak it out loud. and then there is the slurred speech that means that the software is often unable to make any sense of what im saying anyway.

    so for now i hold onto my forefinger on my right hand, hoping i will keep the abilitly to type with it as long as possible.

  • 11 months ago

    I found the best keyboard for myself, after trying too many, is one without the number keypad. It sits higher than most, and has backlit keys. The reviews are correct, sometimes one or two keys quit lighting up. However, that does not make the key quit working. This keyboard is cheap enough to keep a spare on hand, too. I order it from https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016MAK38U/ .

    Good luck with your own search. I hope you find something that does work for you.

  • Matt Allen G author
    10 months ago

    I had one like that but it didn’t feel right so I went the expensive route and ordered a “custom” one where I could choose what kind of triggers.actuaters were under each key to help customize the force required to hit each key. Each key lights up on its own and I can program which keys are on/off as well as how bright they are or whether they fade in and out/blink and just so much. It’s kind of ridiculous but for something I use so often it was worth it. It’s a “Duck One” keyboard in case you are interested in checking it out.

  • debrakay
    10 months ago

    I bought a backlit gaming keyboard without a number pad also. I am very happy with it.
    https://www.amazon.com/Mechanical-Keyboard-Extra-Thin-Switches-HV-KB390L/dp/B0722GG88M

  • Margot moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi @charlie-tca , Thank you so much for sharing what you’ve found to help!! Best, Margot, MultipleSclerosis.net Team

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