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Why would neurodiversity endorse facilitated communication

Posted Oct 06 2009 10:02pm
I just read an interesting post by Kevin Leitch, creator of the autism hub and left brain/right brain blogger. Kevin expresses an interest in facilitated communication and wonders if it is genuine. Kevin, if I remember correctly, has a nonverbal daughter and stated, in what is the usual bizarre logic and lack of common sense among neurodiversity proponents, in a radio interview,that he did not believe autistics needed a cure. However, if a cure were available, he would give it to his daughter if she herself wished for it. In this interview Kev also repeated his belief that autistics who don't want a cure don't need one as well as the hub's old tagline "we don't want no stinkin' cure".

One wonders how it would be possible for a nonverbal child to communicate the desire for a cure. Perhaps, for this reason, Kevin is interested in using facilitated communication as a possible intervention for his daughter. Kevin expresses skepticism about FC but makes the following interesting statement:

The section of the autism community that accepts FC as a valid technique is largely the neurodiversity movement in who’s(sic) 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.

Kevin neglects to provide any links or documentation of where these three stellar individuals have endorsed FC.

Perhaps he mentioned Amanda Baggs because Amanda Baggs claims to be a nonverbal autistic in spite of the fact she once spoke very fluently and then started to gradually lose her speech in adolescence and then fully in adulthood, claiming to have suffered from catatonia. There is evidence that Amanda may not be all she claims. Though some people have accused Amanda of being a malingerer in order to receive her SSI checks and section 8 housing, I have yet to see any actual smoking guns. Even if Amanda is all she claims, she certainly does not present the same sort of clinical picture as Dov Shestack or John Belmonte who have never spoken.

Also, he may have mentioned Seidel because she and her husband are good friends of Baggs and may be endorsing the fallacious idea that Baggs is a low functioning autistic.

He also mentions Michelle Dawson but seems less certain about her. It would seem strange if Michelle Dawson had actually endorsed FC, being that she is such a stickler for scientific rigor and constantly complains about the low standards of science and ethics being applied to persons with autism. So far, the scientific evidence has been weighted against FC with most (if not all studies) refuting its existence. If anything one would think that Dawson would be criticizing FC and the unsupported assertions of its proponents who apply these low standards of science to autistics.

Interestingly, one person he does not mention is Ari Ne'eman. Given that Ne'eman is the president of ASAN and one of the things they have lobbied congress for is inclusion of augmentive communication devices as part of autism insurance bills and the autism treatment acceleration act. There can be little doubt that Ne'eman believes in FC.

Kevin also wonders if he should believe in FC given people he respects may believe in FC in spite of all the scientific evidence against it. He states that he does not believe vaccines cause autism because of scientific evidence.

Here we see a possible neurodiversity double standard. They accept science that supports their position but reject science that does not support their position. In the past Kathleen Seidel and others have stated that part of the reason they don't like the thimerosal or vaccine hypothesis is because it is insulting to them that anyone would consider them or their children "toxic". It would seem in part the autism vaccine controversy is more emotional to at least some neurodiversites than scientific.

In this vein, one wonders why at least some members of the ND movement, Ne'eman in particular might endorse FC. Perhaps the reason is, they can then say that rejecting a cure for autism or research in genetics and neurophysiology that might enable autistics to lead a better life is fine. Research that would enable autistics to speak is unnecessary, because FC would give them those same capabilities. It would also enable Ne'eman and his ASAN subordinates to make it look like they are actually doing something constructive to help persons on the spectrum, rather than spewing out hatred, lies and propaganda, such as the despicable no myths video. What did the ransom notes campaign, the campaign against the York Pennsylvania kidnapping sign, the pressure placed on AS to remove the I am autism video from their website do for autistic people, who must struggle every day of their lives? Perhaps ASAN realizes this and wants to make it look like they are doing something. Maybe ND's want to make themselves look compassionate and not reveal their true colors as to the vicious hate mongers that most of them really are.

Perhaps ND's who endorse FC have an ulterior motive.

Addendum: Michelle Dawson has commented on Kevin Leitch's post that she does not in fact support facilitated communication and Kevin Leitch has acknowledged the error and has stood corrected.
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