B1-E: The Resurgence of Facilitated Communication

Facilitated Communication (FC), an intervention in which a non-disabled “facilitator” assists a (seemingly) severely intellectually disabled and minimally or completely non-verbal “user” spell with a letter board or keyboard through physical contact of some kind (supporting the user at the wrist, elbow, or shoulder, or even just holding the letter board) was introduced to the United States in the 1990s. FC attained enormous popularity before dozens of controlled studies confirmed that the facilitator, not the user, was actually controlling the output. Now, FC is resurging under new names, including the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and Spelling to Communicate (S2C). Drawing on material from a chapter on FC in my forthcoming book, Chasing the Intact MInd, we will discuss how to recognize FC, why so many people are fooled by it, as well as the multiple threats it poses to severely autistic individuals: most importantly, hijacking their already fragile agency and turning them into puppets.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Identify the differences between Facilitated Communication and Alternative and Augmentive Communication
  2. Understand the harms of Facilitated Communication
  3. Develop a basic knowledge of the extensive psychological literature debunking Facilitated Communication
Communication Family Self Advocacy Social Emotional


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