ASHA: Facilitated Communication Harmful to Individuals with Disabilities

ASHA: Facilitated Communication Harmful to Individuals with Disabilities November 24, 2018
photo credit YouTube Screen Grab

Facilitated Communication (FC), a controversial communication technique for individuals with disabilities, is under fire by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). For more than two decades, facilitated communication has received backlash by from the scientific community. Skeptics of the communication method, say there is no scientific proof that FC works. Additionally, professionals from ASHA say the communication method is harmful to individuals with disabilities. In August, ASHA took action by denouncing the communication method via their website and YouTube accounts.

What is FC?

According to the ASHA website, they describe FC as the following:

“Facilitated Communication (FC)—also referred to as “Assisted Typing,” “Facilitated Communication Training,” and “Supported Typing”—is a technique that involves a person with a disability pointing to letters, pictures, or objects on a keyboard or on a communication board, typically with physical support from a “facilitator.”

This physical support usually occurs on the hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder (Biklen, Winston Morton, Gold, Berrigan, & Swaminathan, 1992) or on other parts of the body”

Generally, individuals that seek out facilitated communication have a loved one that has little to no speech ability. A facilitator helps the individual point or touch pictures on a screen or communication board. Typically the individuals communicating via FC have profound disabilities.

Unfortunately, the industry as a whole appears to be a scam that provides false hope to families. ASHA says that there is no scientific evidence proving the messages come from the individual with the disability. There is evidence that the communication from FC is words from the facilitator.

ASHA is so concerned about FC that they call the practice harmful. They outline the following reasons FC is harmful:

  • is not a valid form of communication and does not provide access to communication;
  • denies the user’s access to their human right of communication;
  • costs time and money that cannot be retrieved, and, hence, reduces opportunities for access to timely, effective, and appropriate treatment for independent communication;
  • gives false hope to families of individuals with little or no speech; and
  • has been associated with significant preventable harms arising through false allegations of sexual abuse (Probst, 2005) and other forms of maltreatment (Boynton, 2012; Chan & Nankervis, 2014; Wombles, 2014).

ASHA continues with recommendations for families:

The substantial and serious risks of FC outweigh any anecdotal reports of its benefit. The scientific evidence against FC, evidence of harms of FC, and potential for future harms to people who use FC and their families cannot be ignored in clinical decision making.

SLPs who use FC—despite being informed of and knowing these harms and risks—could face additional risks in terms of their own liability in the event of harms arising to people with disabilities or their families related to the use of FC.

SLPs have a responsibility to inform and warn clients, family members, caregivers, teachers, administrators, and other professionals who are using or are considering using FC that

  1. decades of scientific research on FC have established with confidence that FC is not a valid form of communication;
  2. messages produced using FC do not reflect the communication of the person with a disability;
  3. FC does not provide access to communication;
  4. the use of FC is associated with several harms to individuals with disabilities as well as their family members or teachers; and
  5. ASHA’s position on FC is that it should not be used.

While many families may feel a sense of desperation to communicate with their loved ones, ASHA warns everyone not to use FC as a means to communicate. The organization supports research and clinical efforts to develop scientifically valid methods of communication.

ASHA points out that 19 other organizations no longer support the use of FC.

Please check their video statement below:

Please share and help spread the word!

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    > Skeptics of the communication method, say there is no scientific proof that FC works.

    IIRC, it was offered as ‘testimony’ in a sex abuse trial. A skeptical judge arranged a test of it. It failed totally.

  • Linda Rosa

    I hope ASHA will help stop taxpayer-funded Facilitated Communication (FC) in Vermont, New York, and elsewhere. (It was recently stopped in Colorado.)

    Does the US Department of Justice have a policy on FC?

  • I do not believe the DOJ would have a position on something used for therapy and education. I do not see anything related to it. These are the organizations that oppose it:

    The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)[45]
    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)[8][61]
    The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), previously called the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR)[8][61]
    The American Psychiatric Association Council of Representatives (APACR)[8][61]
    The American Psychological Association (APA)[44][45]
    The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)[21][46][47]
    The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)[45][61]
    The Association for Science in Autism Treatment[8]
    Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM)[8]
    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)[21]
    Heilpädagogische Forschung[8]
    The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire[62]
    The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC)[8]
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)[63]
    The New York State Department of Health[61]
    The New Zealand Ministries of Health and Education[8]
    The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network[8]
    Socialstyrelsen (The National Board of Health and Welfare, Sweden)[8]
    Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC)[64]
    Speech Pathology Australia[8]
    The Swedish Autism and Asperger Association[65]
    The Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals and Disabilities Inc. (VALID)[8]

  • Snagglefritz Sagenschnitter

    – Send the facilitator out of the room.
    – Ask the patient a question and request an answer.
    – Call the facilitator back into the room and get them to go through their Facilitated Communication routine
    – Check the “facilitated” answer to the question.

    I don’t know, but I’m guessing not one facilitator will be able to help the patient to provide a correct answer.
    Run the test a hundred times and I’m guessing there will be one hundred incorrect answers (or no answers).

  • Casey DePriest

    (Hoping to not get censored this time. My comment was removed at my last attempt to offer a balanced reply.)
    Don’t believe everything that you read! Did you know that all of the “research” that is determined to deny the communication of nonspeaking individuals has been conducted by ASHA members and psychologists with a strong bias – they have lucrative patents on communication products that won’t be needed if nonspeaking individuals can type. And/or they have used faulty testing on these same individuals and determined them to have a low IQ/academic potential. When these nonspeaking individuals (many, many of them) are now proving them wrong by writing blogs and accessing grade level academics or graduating from college, it puts pressure on the “experts” to fight for their reputation or admit they were wrong. Guess what they’ve chosen to do?!
    Do you really think nonspeaking communicators are the only ones who have potential to be influenced? Is not the intent of this article to influence thinking (and communication by the request to SHARE) through scare tactics? Have speaking children never alleged abuse? They have. Should we silence all children, just in case?
    Get the facts and push back. Do you know how many ASHA members were even involved in this “decision”? (Less than 1/2% of their membership!!!)
    Did you know there are a good number of ASHA members who are now supporting typing to communicate and training families in these strategies because they have seen the lack of progress nonspeaking children actually make with more traditional strategies that ignore their motor differences?
    Visit http://www.unitedforcommunicationchoice.org to learn from the true experts- those who now have a reliable means of communicating with family, doctors, teachers; decreased anxiety; access to meaningful social relationships; access to grade-level education; increased hope; and an overall improved quality of life!