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Facilitated Communication - where does a neurodiverse skeptic stand?

Posted Oct 06 2009 10:01pm

An article in yesterdays Longmont Times raised (for me anyway) the issue of Facilitated Communication.

This is an issue that is, in its own way, just as divisive as the vaccine issue amongst sections of the autism community and science. You see, some autistic and autism advocates believe passionately in the efficacy of FC whilst science largely rejects FC:

Current position statements of certain professional and/or advocacy organizations do not support the use of Facilitated Communication due to their objections that it lacks scientific validity or reliability. These organizations include the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Association on Mental Retardation. ABAI calls FC a “discredited technique” and warns that “its use is unwarranted and unethical.”

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment reviewed the research and position statements and concluded that the messages typed on the communication device were controlled by the facilitator, not the individual with autism, and FC did not improve their language skills. Therefore, FC was reported to be an “inappropriate intervention” for individuals with autism spectrum disorders

The section of the autism community that accepts FC as a valid technique is largely the neurodiversity movement in who’s ranks I place myself. But is this making me a hypocrite? I place such firm emphasis on science when it comes to vaccines I can do no less in other areas. But on the other hand voices I trust implicitly within the neurodiversity movement speak out in favour of FC. Amanda Baggs, Kathleen Seidel and (I think) Michelle Dawson to name but three. * [correction: Michelle is not an FC supporter] *

So what do I do? Should I be making a call for more studies (sounds familiar!) or dismissing the voices of autistic people I trust on the issue or dismissing established science?

Or is there another option? What are your thoughts on FC? A decent debate would be useful for lots of people I think.

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