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
- decades of scientific research on FC have established with confidence that FC is not a valid form of communication;
- messages produced using FC do not reflect the communication of the person with a disability;
- FC does not provide access to communication;
- the use of FC is associated with several harms to individuals with disabilities as well as their family members or teachers; and
- ASHA’s position on FC is that it should not be used.
ASHA points out that 19 other organizations no longer support the use of FC.
Please check their video statement below:
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