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Resolutions and Statements by Scientific, Professional, Medical, Governmental, and Support Organizations Against the Use of Facilitated Communication and Rapid Prompting
We are updating this page to include new statements by ISAAC and other organizations. Some links are being updated as well. Please note that some items have been reformatted to fit this page. Please refer to the originals if necessary.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
(Approved by Council, October 20, 1993)
Facilitated communication (FC) is a process by which a "facilitator" supports the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired individual while using a keyboard or typing device. It has been claimed that this process enables persons with autism or mental retardation to communicate. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that FC is not a scientifically valid technique for individuals with autism or mental retardation. In particular, information obtained via (FC) should not be used to confirm or deny allegations of abuse or to make diagnostic or treatment decisions.
Link to original AACAP resolution
American Academy of Pediatrics
(Published 8-2-1998; Reaffirmed 5-1-2006)
Auditory Integration Training and Facilitated Communication for Autism
This statement reviews the basis for two new therapies for autism--auditory integration training and facilitative (sic) communication. Both therapies seek to improve communication skills. Currently available information does not support the claims of proponents that these treatments are efficacious. Their use does not appear warranted at this time, except within research protocols.
Auditory integration training (AIT) is a treatment for autism that was originally developed by Guy Berard in France in the 1960s and introduced into the United States in 1991. It has since become increasingly popular with parents of autistic children. The publication of a book1 in 1991 that described the use of AIT in "curing" a child with autism after a 10-hour intervention program generated extensive interest, particularly among parents of autistic children who were frustrated by the lack of effective traditional medical therapy for autism.2 AIT has been advocated for children and adults with a wide range of disorders other than autism, including learning disabilities, depression, migraine headaches, and epilepsy. It is important that pediatricians know about this intervention to respond to parents who may ask them for an opinion about its usefulness.a
The first step in AIT is to obtain a detailed audiogram, which determines auditory thresholds to a larger series of frequencies (octave and interactive frequencies) than are typically used for measuring hearing ability. An auditory training practitioner then examines the audiogram looking for evidence of hyperacusis3 which then is examined in relation to the clinical history of sound sensitivities and behavioral profile. If an individual is determined to be an appropriate candidate for AIT, the treatment program consists of 20 half-hour sessions during a 10- to 12-day period, with two sessions conducted daily. Treatment sessions consist of listening to music that has been computer-modified to remove frequencies to which the individual demonstrates hypersensitivities, and to reduce the predictability of the auditory patterns. A special device (an Audiokinetron) is used to modify the music for the treatment sessions. Audiograms are repeated midway and at the end of the training sessions, to document "progress" and to determine whether additional sessions are needed. Disciples of another proponent of AIT, Tomatis, generally recommend repeating the 20-session series of training sessions during a 4- to 12-month period.4
The limitations of the premises on which AIT is based were reviewed by Gravel.3 She notes that current objective electrophysiologic measures such as auditory-evoked brainstem responses fail to demonstrate differences in hearing sensitivity between autistic and nonautistic children. Moreover, autistic children are extremely difficult to test using behavioral audiometry, because their responses are frequently inconsistent, often showing small (5-decibel) differences between frequencies generally considered within normal clinical variation. Although AIT practitioners declare the technique to be safe, there is some information about both the quality control characteristics of the equipment used and potentially unsafe sound levels produced by it.5
AIT practitioners report that individuals who have received AIT demonstrate many benefits: improved attention, improved auditory processing, decreased irritability, reduced lethargy, and improved expressive language and auditory comprehension. Unfortunately, little scientific documentation exists to support these assertions. Rimland and Edelson6 recently conducted a pilot study of AIT in 17 autistic children aged 4 to 21 years. Eight children underwent AIT for 10 days and 9 children listened to unprocessed music under identical conditions, with evaluators and parents blinded to the treatment received. Although random assignment was not used, and the comparability of the two groups was not described, the authors reported decreases in repetitive behaviors, irritability, and hyperactivity, and improved attention noted by parents in the study group. In addition, Bettison7 studied 80 children randomized to two groups, one received AIT and the other listened to unmodified music. Twelve months later both groups demonstrated significant improvements in behavior and verbal and performance IQ, suggesting that some aspect of listening to music may have some effect on features of autism. Further studies are underway to better document any effects of this controversial treatment.
Facilitated communication (FC) is a method of providing assistance to a nonverbal person in typing out words using a typewriter, computer keyboard, or other communication device. FC involves supporting the individual's hand to make it easier for him or her to indicate the letters that are chosen sequentially to develop the communicative statement. This manual prompting, by a trained facilitator, is claimed to provide expressive language abilities to a wide range of individuals, including those with severe intellectual disabilities or autism. Originally applied to assist people with physical disabilities by Jacobson et al,8 FC was brought to the United States by Biklen in 1989.9 According to Biklen, this procedure often produces unexpected literacy and reveals normal or even superior intelligence and/or communicative ability that was "trapped in a wordless person."9,10 FC is at the center of a growing controversy, because several scientific studies have suggested that facilitators may unintentionally influence the communication, perhaps to the extent of actually selecting the words themselves.11-14 Yet proponents point to a series of nonexperimental reports that promote the use of FC and suggest that it is unethical to use a rigorous scientific method to study its efficacy.15
As reviewed by Jacobson et al,8 FC has been the subject of many controlled studies with consistently negative findings, indicating that the technique is neither reliably replicable nor valid. Methods that have been used include single and double-blind procedures, repeated measures and self-controls, or passing messages about which the facilitator would have no prior information.
For example, Smith et al16 studied 10 individuals with autism specifically to investigate the effects of facilitator influence and level of assistance on the results of FC. Each subject had six sessions, two with no help, two with partial assistance, and two with full assistance. Results showed that there were no cases of correct responses from the subject unless the facilitator knew the correct response. In addition, numerous responses were typed by the subjects to stimuli that were shown only to the facilitator, and not the subject. Similar results have been found by Regal et al17 and Eberlin et al.18
A recently published study by Cardinal et al19 attempted to support the ability of experienced FC users to transmit single words to a naive facilitator. They found that this only occurred with prolonged practice of the experimental task, and there were many inconsistencies in the responses, even after prolonged practice. They suggested that further research is needed, especially to develop methodologies to clearly separate facilitator influence from user communication.
Despite this evidence, some states have promoted and supported the use of FC for children and adults with autism and other disabilities, and even issued guidelines to promote technology transfer of FC. There has been widespread national media attention to this alternative therapy, and many parents are interested in exploring this option for their children; the attraction of unlocking the child's "hidden abilities" is a strong incentive for its use.
One complication of the use of FC has been the allegation of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, that has been obtained from individuals through the use of FC against third persons. This has generated adverse publicity and caused severely negative consequences for families who may be unsure of the validity of the allegations. Because of legal mandates regarding reports of child abuse, this becomes a critical issue for teachers and pediatricians alike, who may find the credibility of the report highly questionable but are obligated to fulfill their legal responsibilities. Margolin20 notes that although more than 50 such allegations have resulted in legal proceedings, most have terminated before trial. The ethical dilemmas posed by FC for practitioners have been reviewed by Jacobson et al.8
AIT and FC are controversial treatment options for autism and other disorders. Although two investigations indicated AIT may help some children with autism,5,6 as yet there are no good controlled studies to support its use. In the case of FC, there are good scientific data showing it to be ineffective.11-14 Moreover, as noted before, the potential for harm does exist, particularly if unsubstantiated allegations of abuse occur using FC. Many families incur substantial expense pursuing these treatments, and spend time and resources that could be used more productively on behavioral and educational interventions. When controversial or unproven treatments are being considered by a family, the pediatrician should provide guidance and assistance in obtaining and reviewing information. The pediatrician should ensure that the child's health and safety, and the family's financial and emotional resources are not compromised. It is important for the pediatrician to obtain current data on both AIT and FC as they become available. Until further information is available, the use of these treatments does not appear warranted at this time, except within research protocols. Information on communicating with families who choose an alternative medical approach for their child with chronic illness and disability is also available in the literature.21
(a) Although there are several AIT methods, this statement addresses that which Berard introduced, for it is the only one that has been studied scientifically.
The recommendations in this statement do not indicate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as a standard of medical care. Variations, taking into account individual circumstances, may be appropriate.
AIT, auditory integration training. FC, facilitated communication.
(1) Gravel JS Auditory integrative training: placing the burden of proof. Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 1994; 3:25-29
(2) Silver, LB Controversial therapies. J Child Neurol. 1995; 10:S96-S100
(3) Rankovic CM, Rabinowitz WM, Lof GL Maximum output intensity of the Audiokinetron. Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 1996; 5:68-72
(4) Rimland B, Edelson SM Pilot study of auditing integration training on autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 1995; 25:61-70
(5) Bettison S Long-term effects of auditory training on children with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 1996; 26:361-367
(6) Jacobson JW, Mulick JA, Schwartz AA A history of facilitated communication: science, pseudoscience, and antiscience. Am Psychol. 1995; 50:750-765
(7) Biklen D Communication abound: autism and praxis. Harv Educ Rev. 1990; 60:291-314
(8) Biklen D, Morton M, Gold D, Berrigan C, Swaminathan S Facilitated communication: implications for individuals with autism. Top Lang. Disord. 1992; 12:1-28
(9) Bebko JM, Perry A, Bryson S Multiple method evaluation of facilitated communication: II. Individual differences and subgroup results. J Autism Dev Disord. 1996; 26:19-42
(10) Bomba C, O'Donnell L, Markowitz C, Holmes DL Evaluating the impact of facilitated communication on the communication competence of fourteen students with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 1996; 26:43-58
(11) Green G. The quality of evidence. In: Shane HC, ed. Facilitated Communication: A Clinical and Social Phenomenon. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group; 1994:157-226
(12) Regal RA, Rooney JR, Wandas T Facilitated communication: an experimental evaluation. J Autism Dev Disord. 1994; 24:345-355
(13) Biklen D Facilitated communication. Harvard Mental Health Newsletter. 1993; 10:5-7
(14) Smith MD, Haas PJ, Belcher RG Facilitated communication: the effects of facilitator knowledge and level of assistance on output. J Autism Dev Disorder. 1994; 24:357-367
(15) Regal RA, Rooney JR, Wandas T Facilitated communication: an experimental evaluation. J Autism Dev Disorder. 1994; 24:345-355
(16) Eberlin M, McConnachie G, Ibel S, Volpe L Facilitated communication: a failure to replicate the phenomenon. J Autism Dev Disorder. 1993; 23:507-530
(17) Cardinal DA, Hanson D, Wakeham J Investigation of authorship in facilitated communication. Ment Retard. 1996; 34:231-242
(18) Margolin KN. How shall facilitated communication be judged? Facilitated communication and the legal system. In: Shane HC, ed. Facilitated Communication: The Clinical and Social Phenomenon. San Diego, CA: Singular Press; 1994:227-258
(19) Nickel RE. Controversial therapies for young children with developmental disabilities. Inf Young Children. 1996;8:29-40
American Association on Mental Retardation*
Position Statement on Facilitated Communication
(Adopted by the American Association on Mental Retardation Board of Directors, June 1994)
Whereas, Facilitated Communication (FC) is a process by which a Facilitator supports the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired individual while using a keyboard or typing device. It has been claimed that this process enables a person with autism or mental retardation to communicate. A substantial number of objective clinical evaluations and well controlled studies indicate that facilitated communication has not been shown to result in valid messages from the person being facilitated.
Therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Directors of the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) does not support the use of this technique as the basis for making any important decisions relevant to the individual being facilitated without clear, objective evidence as to the authorship of such messages. The AAMR strongly encourages the use and further development of valid augmentative and alternative communication techniques and approaches.
Original: AAMR News & Notes, 7 (1), 1994
*The American Association on Mental Retardation is now The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD).
American Psychological Association
Resolution on Facilitated Communication by the American Psychological Association
(Adopted in Council, August 14, 1994, Los Angeles, CA)
Facilitated communication (FC) has been widely adopted throughout North America in special/vocational education services for individuals with developmental disabilities who are nonverbal. A basic premise of facilitated communication is that people with autism and moderate and profound mental retardation have "undisclosed literacy" consistent with normal intellectual functioning. Per reviewed, scientifically based studies have found that the typed language output (represented through computers, letter boards, etc.) attributed to the clients was directed or systematically determined by the paraprofessional/professional therapists who provided facilitated assistance (Bligh & Kupperman, 1993; Cabay, in press; Crews et al., in press; Eberlin, McConnachie, Ibel, & Volpe, 1993; Hudson, Melita, & Arnold, 1993; Klewe, 1993; Moore, Donovan, & Hudson, 1993; Moore, Donovan, Hudson, Dykstra, & Lawrence, 1993; Regal, Rooney, & Wandas, in press; Shane & Kearns, in press; Siegel, in press; Simon, Toll, & Whitehair, in press; Szempruch & Jacobson, 1993; Vasquez, in press; Wheeler, Jacobson, Paglieri, & Schwartz, 1993). Furthermore, it has not been scientifically demonstrated that the therapists are aware of their controlling influence.
Consequently, specific activities contribute immediate threats to the individual civil and human rights of the person with autism or severe mental retardation. These include use of facilitated communication as a basis for a) actions related to nonverbal accusations of abuse and mistreatment (by family members or other caregivers); b) actions related to nonverbal communications of personal preferences, self-reports about health, test and classroom performance, and family relations; c) client response in psychological assessment using standardized assessment procedures; and d) client-therapist communication in counseling or psychotherapy, taking therapeutic actions, or making differential treatment decisions. Instances are widely noted where use of facilitated communication in otherwise unsubstantiated allegations of abuse has led to psychological distress, alienation, or financial hardship of family members and caregivers. The experimental and unproved status of the technique does not preclude continued research on the utility of facilitated communication and related scientific issues. Judicious clinical practice involving use of facilitated communication should be preceded by the use of fully informed consent procedures, including communication of both potential risks and likelihood of benefit.
Facilitated communication is a process by which a facilitator supports the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired individual while using a keyboard or typing device. It has been claimed that this process enables persons with autism or mental retardation to communicate. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that facilitated communication is not a scientifically valid technique for individuals with autism or mental retardation. In particular, information obtained via facilitated communication should not be used to confirm or deny allegations of abuse or to make diagnostic or treatment decisions.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that APA adopts the position that facilitated communication is a controversial and unproved communicative procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy.
(1) Bligh, S. & Kupperman, P. (1993). Evaluation procedure for determining the source of the communication in facilitated communication accepted in a court case. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 553-557.
(2) Cabay, M. (in press). A controlled evaluation of facilitated communication with four autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
(3) Crewe, W. D., Sanders, E. C., Hensley, L. G., Johnson, Y. M., Bonaventura, S., & Rhodes, R. D. (in press). An evaluation of facilitated communication in a group of nonverbal individuals with mental retardation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
(4) Eberlin, M., McConnachie, G., Ibel, S. & Volpe, L. (1993). Facilitated communication: A failure to replicate the phenomenon. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 507-530.
(5) Hudson, A., Melita, B., & Arnold, N. (1993). Brief report: A case study assessing the validity of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 165-173.
(6) Klewe, L. (1993). An empirical evaluation of spelling boards as a means of communication for the multihandicapped. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 559-566.
(7) Moore, S. Donovan, B., & Hudson, A. (1993). Facilitator-suggested conversational evaluation of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 541-551.
(8) Moore, S. Donovan, B., Hudson, A., Dykstra, J., & Lawrence, J. (1993). Evaluation of facilitated communication: Eight case studies. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 531-539.
(9) Regal, R. A., Rooney, J. R., & Wandas, T. (in press). Facilitated communication: An experimental evaluation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
(10) Shane, H. C., & Kearns, K. (in press). An examination of the role of the facilitator in "facilitated communication". American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.
(11) Siegel, B. (in press). Assessing allegations of sexual molestation made through facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
(12) Simon, E. W., Toll, D. M., & Whitehair, P. M. (in press). A naturalistic approach to the validation of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
(13) Szempruch, J., & Jacobson, J. W. (1993). Evaluating the facilitated communications of people with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 14, 253-264.
(14) Vasquez, C. (in press). A multi-task controlled evaluation of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
(15) Wheeler, D. L., Jacobson, J. W., Paglieri, R. A., & Schwartz, A. A. (1993). An experimental assessment of facilitated communication. Mental Retardation, 31, 49-60.
Link to original APA resolution
American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA)
This position statement is an official policy of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The position was developed by the ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Facilitated Communication (FC) and the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM): Meher Banajee, chair; Bronwyn Hemsley; Russell Lang; Ralf W. Schlosser; Howard C. Shane; and Diane Paul, ex officio. Sandra Gillam, Vice President for Speech-Language Pathology Practice (2015–2017), served as the ASHA Board of Directors (BOD) liaison from August 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017. Marie Ireland, Vice President for Speech-Language Pathology Practice (2018–2020), served as the BOD liaison from January 1, 2018, to August 31, 2018. This position statement, an update of ASHA's 1995 position statement on FC, was open for peer review by all interested parties, and respondents included speech-language pathologists, audiologists, special educators, other related professionals, professional associations, families, individuals with disabilities, and advocacy groups.
Position Statement: Facilitated Communication
It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that Facilitated Communication (FC) is a discredited technique that should not be used. There is no scientific evidence of the validity of FC, and there is extensive scientific evidence—produced over several decades and across several countries—that messages are authored by the "facilitator" rather than the person with a disability. Furthermore, there is extensive evidence of harms related to the use of FC. Information obtained through the use of FC should not be considered as the communication of the person with a disability.
Description of Facilitated Communication
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.
ASHA first developed a position statement about FC in 1995 due to a lack of scientific validity and reliability (ASHA, 1995). This updated FC position statement takes a stronger stance against the use of FC than did ASHA’s 1995 statement. In the years since that position statement, there has been no credible scientific evidence of benefit and only growing evidence of the lack of efficacy and of the harms of FC. The use of FC risks harm to individuals with communication disabilities in that it may hinder or delay access to appropriate services and effective forms of intervention, including augmentative and alternative communication (AAC; see, e.g., Allen, Schlosser, Brock, & Shane, 2017; Brady et al., 2016; Iacono, Trembath, & Erickson, 2016; Logan, Iacono, & Trembath, 2017; Romski & Sevcik, 2016; Snell et al., 2010; Walker & Snell, 2013); Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA; Ivy & Schreck, 2016; Virues-Ortega, 2010; Vismara & Rogers, 2010); Functional Communication Training (Heath, Ganz, Parker, Burke, & Ninci,, 2015; Kurtz, Boelter, Jarmolowicz, Chin, & Hagopian); and other empirically supported interventions (ASHA, n.d.-a). The harms of FC also include false allegations of sexual abuse (Probst, 2005) and other forms of maltreatment (Boynton, 2012; Chan & Nankervis, 2014; Wombles, 2014).
ASHA recognizes the human right of communication, as expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (UNCRPD; United Nations, 2006), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR; United Nations, 1948), the International Communication Project (2014), and the Communication Bill of Rights by the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons With Severe Disabilities (NJC; Brady et al., 2016). FC is a technique that involves the person with a disability being dependent upon a "facilitator" to produce a message. The use of FC or other "facilitator"-dependent techniques (e.g., Rapid Prompting Method [RPM]; see ASHA's Position Statement on RPM [ASHA, 2018]) is not consistent with the communication rights of autonomy and freedom of expression (Chan & Nankervis, 2014) because the messages do not reflect the voice of the person with a disability but, rather, reflect the communication of the "facilitator." It must not be assumed that messages delivered via FC or any other "facilitator"-dependent technique (e.g., RPM) reflect the communication of the person with a disability. This position statement on FC does not pertain to independent typing without "facilitator" influence.
Systematic Reviews of FC
Recent systematic literature reviews of FC (Hemsley et al., 2018; Schlosser et al., 2014), based on research appropriately designed to determine the effectiveness of FC, demonstrate a lack of scientific studies to support the effectiveness of the technique and a preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrating "facilitator" influence and authorship of messages delivered by FC. In the almost 3 decades since FC was introduced, there has been no empirical evidence that messages composed using FC can be attributed to the person with a disability. Indeed, the conclusions of earlier systematic reviews (Felce, 1994; Jacobson, Mulick, & Schwartz, 1995; Mostert, 2001; Mostert, 2010; Probst, 2005; Schlosser et al., 2014; Wehrenfennig & Surian, 2008) are supported, and there have been no new authorship studies in the peer-reviewed literature since 2014 (Hemsley et al., 2018; Saloviita, Leppänen, & Ojalammi, 2014). That is, there is no scientific evidence that (a) FC provides access to communication or that (b) individuals achieve independence in communication through the use of FC. Rather, there is sufficient scientific evidence—obtained through numerous controlled and objective evaluations of the technique, including peer-reviewed studies—demonstrating that messages produced using FC are authored by the "facilitator" and not by the person with a disability.
Proponents of FC state that the technique reveals previously undetected literacy and communication skills in people with autism and other disabilities. However, these statements are made only on the basis of anecdotal reports, testimonials, and descriptive studies. Clearly, FC is a pseudoscience (i.e., a practice incorrectly framed as being based on scientific findings; Finn, Bothe, & Bramlett, 2005; Lof, 2011) and is "junk science" (i.e., faulty information or research used to advance specific interests; Agin, 2006). As such, the use of FC carries, several negative and harmful consequences in that FC
is not an effective 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).
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are autonomous professionals who are responsible for critically evaluating all treatment techniques in order to hold paramount the welfare of persons served in accordance with the ASHA Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016). SLPs should be mindful of their own legal and ethical responsibilities and risks; they are obliged to "provide services or dispense products only when benefit can reasonably be expected" and not do harm (ASHA, 2016).
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.
SLPs also have an ethical responsibility to inform clients, family members, caregivers, teachers, administrators, and other professionals of empirically supported treatments for communication for individuals with communication limitations and to advocate for these treatments. Several systematic literature reviews have demonstrated the value of communication interventions for individuals with severe communication disabilities (Allen et al., 2017; Brady et al., 2016; Iacono et al., 2016; Logan et al., 2017; Romski & Sevcik, 2016; Snell et al., 2010; Walker & Snell, 2013). See the Augmentative and Alternative Communication evidence map (ASHA, n.d.-a) for summaries of available research on this topic, and see the Practice Portal on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ASHA, n.d.-b) for information on a variety of empirically supported intervention approaches and technologies providing access to AAC.
ASHA strongly supports continued research and clinical efforts to develop scientifically valid methods for developing and enhancing the authentic and independent communication and literacy skills of people with disabilities.
ASHA's position on FC is consistent with as many as 19 other national and international professional and advocacy organization statements (Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan, n.d.).
Link to ASHA statement on Faciliated Communication
American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA)
Rapid Prompting Method
This position statement is an official policy of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The position was developed by the ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Facilitated Communication (FC) and the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM): Meher Banajee, chair; Bronwyn Hemsley; Russell Lang; Ralf W. Schlosser; Howard C. Shane; and Diane Paul, ex officio. Sandra Gillam, Vice President for Speech-Language Pathology Practice (2015–2017) served as the ASHA Board of Directors (BOD) liaison from August 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017. Marie Ireland, Vice President for Speech-Language Pathology Practice (2018–2020) served as the BOD liaison from January 1, 2018, to August 31, 2018. This position statement was open for peer review by all interested parties, and respondents included speech-language pathologists, audiologists, special educators, other related professionals, professional associations, families, individuals with disabilities, and advocacy groups.
It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that use of the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is not recommended because of prompt dependency and the lack of scientific validity. Furthermore, information obtained through the use of RPM should not be assumed to be the communication of the person with a disability.
Description of the Rapid Prompting Method
The Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), is described as a teaching method "leading towards communication for persons with autism" (Helping Autism for Learning and Outreach [HALO], 2018; Mukhopadhyay, 2008). Information about RPM is available primarily through the HALO website ( www.halo-soma.org) and in books by Soma Mukhopadhyay, who developed RPM for her son (Mukhopadhyay, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016a, 2016b, 2017a, 2017b). According to the HALO website, RPM involves pointing to letters "to form words on a letter board, typing device, and/or by handwriting." Untested assertions are that RPM assists with motor planning and that "prompting is necessary in order for the student to initiate a response" (Mukhopadhyay, 2008, p. 139). Although RPM is promoted for use with persons with autism, the HALO website states that RPM is suitable for "most any student." As prescribed by Mukhopadhyay in her books and workshops, RPM involves a series of "teach–ask" trials of graduated difficulty, starting with the student being given or choosing a correct answer from two written options and progressing through to composing responses by pointing to printed letters on a card, stencil, or keyboard (Mukhopadhyay, 2008). Competence is presumed even if not evident, and learning materials are presented verbally and textually at age level. Verbal, auditory, visual, and tactile prompts are used to elicit responses (e.g., ripping paper, handing a student a pencil). In RPM, "prompt dependency is preferred to the alternative of allowing no response or no learning to occur" HALO, n.d.). Although RPM or Soma®RPM is primarily associated with HALO-Soma and Soma Mukhopadhyay, foundationally and procedurally similar alternative forms have appeared, such as "Informative Pointing" (Iversen, 2007), "letterboarding," and "Spelling to Communicate," and this position statement is applicable regardless of the name used for the technique.
Comparison of RPM With FC
RPM bears considerable similarity to Facilitated Communication (FC)—also called "Assisted Typing," "Facilitated Communication Training," and "Supported Typing"—and FC is a pseudoscientific technique that has been discredited, disproven, and found harmful (see ASHA, 2018; Schlosser et al., 2014). Both RPM and FC are "facilitator"-dependent techniques (i.e., techniques that involve the person with the disability being dependent upon a "facilitator" to produce a message; Tostanoski, Lang, Raulston, Carnett, & Davis, 2014). These techniques ostensibly are designed to provide access to alphabet/letter/word boards or speech-generating devices for communication or education. In RPM, the instructor typically does not physically guide the hands of the individual but, rather, holds the letter board and provides repeated verbal, auditory, visual, and/or tactile prompts. See Table 1 for a comparison of characteristics of RPM with those of FC.
ASHA recognizes the human right of communication, as expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (UNCRPD; United Nations, 2006), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR; United Nations, 1948), the International Communication Project (2014), and the Communication Bill of Rights by the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons With Severe Disabilities (NJC; Brady et al., 2016). The use of RPM or other "facilitator"-dependent techniques is not consistent with the communication rights of autonomy and freedom of expression and prevents access to the person's human right of communication (Chan & Nankervis, 2014). It must not be assumed that messages produced via RPM or any other "facilitator"-dependent technique (e.g., FC) reflect the communication of the person with a disability. This position statement on RPM does not pertain to independent typing without instructor influence.
Systematic Review of RPM
Schlosser et al. (2017a, 2017b, 2018) recently conducted a systematic review of the literature relating to RPM and people with autism spectrum disorder. The results of this systematic review demonstrated that, to date, there are no experimental studies of sufficient rigor to demonstrate a link between any communication or education improvements in the person with a disability and the use of RPM;
no studies have tested authorship of messages produced using RPM, and, as such, it is not possible to rule out instructor influence; and
there are no experimental studies addressing the effectiveness of RPM.
Chen, Yoder, Ganzel, Goodwin, and Belmonte (2012), one of the excluded studies in the Schlosser et al. (2017a, 2017b, 2018) review, often is cited incorrectly as providing empirical support for RPM; however, this descriptive, retrospective, correlational study did not attempt to test authorship of the messages produced using RPM (Lang, Tostanoski, Travers, & Todd, 2014) and was not designed to test effectiveness of RPM in terms of communication (Chen et al., 2012). The authors themselves stated, "We defer, for the moment, the crucial question of whether the communications produced during RPM therapy are genuine." In the almost 2 decades since RPM was introduced, three important observations are noted that serve as the basis for not recommending RPM:
The scientific validity and reliability of RPM have not been demonstrated.
There is no scientific evidence supporting the assertion that messages produced using RPM reflect the communication of the person with a disability.
Anecdotes about the use of RPM include stories of both benefits and harms. The lack of scientific validity of RPM—and RPM's similarity in characteristics to FC (Tostanoski et al., 2014), as summarized in Table 1—support the following conclusions: (a) the use of RPM risks the production of instructor-dependent messages, (b) the use of RPM may limit opportunities for the person with a disability to access effective interventions, and (c) RPM is a pseudoscience (i.e., a practice incorrectly framed as being based on scientific findings; Finn, Bothe, & Bramlett, 2005; Lof, 2011) and is "junk science" (i.e., faulty information or research used to advance specific interests; Agin, 2006).
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are autonomous professionals who are responsible for critically evaluating all treatment techniques in order to hold paramount the welfare of persons served in accordance with the ASHA Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016). SLPs should be mindful of their own legal and ethical responsibilities and risks; they are obliged to "provide services or dispense products only when benefit can reasonably be expected" and not do harm (ASHA, 2016).
SLPs have a responsibility to inform and warn clients, family members, caregivers, teachers, administrators, and other professionals who are using or are considering using RPM that
there is no evidence that messages produced using RPM reflect the communication of the person with a disability, and therefore there is no evidence that RPM is a valid form of communication;
there is emerging scientific evidence that messages produced using RPM reflect the communication of the instructor and not of the person with disability;
RPM has been compared to FC on several characteristics, and FC is a discredited technique with evidence demonstrating that messages produced using FC do not reflect the communication of the person with disability but are authored by the "facilitator" (Felce, 1994; Jacobson, Mulick, & Schwartz, 1995; Mostert, 2001, 2010; Probst, 2005; Schlosser et al., 2014; Wehrenfennig & Surian, 2008);
the potential harms associated with using RPM include prompt dependency; lost time and money that cannot be retrieved; reduced opportunities for access to timely, effective, and appropriate interventions; and potential loss of individual communication rights; and
ASHA's position on RPM is that the use of RPM is not recommended.
SLPs also have a responsibility to inform clients, family members, caregivers, teachers, administrators, and other professionals of empirically supported treatments for individuals with communication limitations and to advocate for these treatments. Several systematic literature reviews have demonstrated the value of communication interventions for individuals with severe communication disabilities, including augmentative and alternative communication (AAC; see, e.g., Allen, Schlosser, Brock, & Shane, 2017; Brady et al., 2016; Iacono, Trembath, & Erickson, 2016; Logan, Iacono, & Trembath, 2017; Romski & Sevcik, 2016; Snell et al., 2010; Walker & Snell, 2013); Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA; Ivy & Schreck, 2016; Virues-Ortega, 2010; Vismara & Rogers, 2010); Functional Communication Training (Heath, Ganz, Parker, Burke, & Ninci, 2015; Kurtz, Boelter, Jarmolowicz, Chin, & Hagopian, 2011); and other empirically supported interventions. See the Augmentative and Alternative Communication evidence map (ASHA, n.d.-a) for summaries of available research on this topic and the Practice Portal on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ASHA, n.d.-b). ASHA strongly supports continued research and clinical efforts to develop scientifically valid methods for developing and enhancing the authentic and independent communication and literacy skills of people with disabilities.
ASHA's position that RPM is not recommended is supported internationally by other professional associations for SLPs (Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapists, 2017; Speech-Language & Audiology Canada, 2018; Speech Pathology Australia, 2012).
Notes on Similarities and Differences
Procedures Used to Elicit Responses
An instructor typically holds (and often moves) a letter board while the individual is asked to point to letters and spell words (HALO, 2018; Mukhopadhyay, 2008). Verbal, auditory, visual, and tactile prompts are used to assist the individual to point to letters (e.g., ripping paper, handing a student a pencil). Stencils with the alphabet, keyboards, and handwriting are also used.
A "facilitator" provides physical support by touching or holding the individual's hand, arm, or shoulder as words are spelled on a letter board or keyboard (Biklen et al., 1991). In some instances, other parts of the body may be touched, or the contact changes from being physical to being gestural.
Confounds affecting both FC and RPM (e.g., the "facilitator's" expectancy bias and ideomotor movements) can be introduced through movement of the individual's hand or movement of the board that the hand touches (Burgess et al., 1998; Tostanoski et al., 2014). The ideomotor effect occurs when thoughts influence movements subconsciously (Burgess et al., 1998).
Both FC and RPM allow for a notable amount of procedural variation to include the "facilitator" or instructor holding and moving the output device, the individual, or both.
Assumptions About Communication and Literacy Skills
RPM is described on the home page of the HALO website as a "teaching method . . . leading towards communication for persons with autism" (Mukhopadhyay, 2008). As opposed to revealing existing skills, RPM claims to teach individuals new skills, including advanced academic concepts (e.g., reading and spelling). Ultimately, RPM presumes competency in terms of the efficiency of an individual's skill acquisition.
RPM proponents presume competency in an individual's ability to quickly acquire new skills when prompted on an "open learning channel" (Mukhopadhyay, 2008, p. 91). In writings about RPM, it is claimed that an "open learning channel prompt" involves (a) hypothesizing what form of sensory stimulation is being experienced and then (b) prompting the person in such a way as to compete with that stimulation. For example, an auditory prompt may be given when a person engages in stereotypy that produces sound. This assumption is untested. Alleged evidence of this rapid acquisition of advanced skills (reading, writing, etc.) is provided only when using the method (HALO, 2018; Mukhopadhyay, 2008).
Writings about FC (a) claim that FC unlocks hidden or latent talents in the individual with a disability and (b) presume competency in literacy, spelling, abstract reasoning, and other domains. FC is less likely to be construed as a teaching approach and is more likely to be construed as a key to "liberate" locked-in skills that are already present (Jacobson, Foxx, & Mulick, 2005). Alleged evidence of the authenticity of these abilities is provided only during facilitation (i.e., using the method; Schlosser et al., 2014).
Both FC and RPM rely on presumptions of competency (Travers & Ayres, 2015). Presumption of competency is of concern when it is given more credence in treatment decisions than known facts about the individual or evidence to the contrary (Todd, 2015). The notion of presumed competence can be contrasted with the well-established clinical philosophy that respect for an individual's communication rights is demonstrated by the use of individualized, targeted, and effective treatment approaches.
In both FC and RPM, the practitioner begins with a set of assumptions derived from a generalized philosophy about the nature of disability rather than on direct empirical assessment data specific to the individual.
In terms of evidence for or against the procedures:
(a) In FC, there is sufficient scientific evidence demonstrating that facilitated messages are not authored by the individual with a disability (Schlosser et al., 2014). However, FC proponents tend to refute more rigorous studies in favor of less rigorous studies and/or anecdotal reports when those sources support FC's initial presumptions (Emerson, Grayson, & Griffiths, 2001).
(b) In RPM, there is no empirical evidence to show that prompted messages are authored by the individual with a disability.
There are no peer-reviewed studies that test the authorship of RPM messages. The level of skill proficiency claimed to be a result of RPM is a level that educational and psychological research suggests is unlikely (Lang et al., 2014).
Hypothesized Mechanism of Action
RPM is claimed to lead to communication by using "open learning channels" that involve specific sensory modes (visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic), which become activated in a given environment (Mukhopadhyay, 2008, p. 91).
FC is claimed to produce communication by providing physical support to offset deficits in motor planning and control and/or by providing emotional support through touch and presence of the "facilitator" (Biklen et al., 1991; Schlosser et al., 2014).
Although the mechanisms of action claimed to underlie FC and RPM are different, no data supporting either hypothesized mechanism of action have been reported in peer-reviewed research.
Further, the ideomotor effect has not been controlled in studies of FC or mentioned as a threat in the literature on RPM. Overall, the ideomotor effect remains a more parsimonious explanation for the production of the messages in both methods.
In their failure to control for the ideomotor effect, both FC and RPM have not demonstrated the validity of their respective mechanisms of action—this characteristic flaw in method is shared by many fad and pseudoscientific approaches (Jacobson et al., 2005).
Research Base/Evidence for Claims of Benefit
RPM avoids peer review and discourages scientific research (Tostanoski et al., 2014). The study often cited as providing empirical support for RPM (see Chen, Yoder, Ganzel, Goodwin, & Belmonte, 2012) is a descriptive, retrospective, correlational study that did not attempt to test authorship of the messages (Lang et al., 2014).
FC has been studied extensively, and there have been no documented cases of valid communication presented in rigorous controlled research (Schlosser et al., 2014).
For both FC and RPM, there is no credible evidence that messages are authored by the person with a disability, and there is no credible evidence indicating authentic independent communication or any other beneficial outcome arising from FC or RPM (Lang et al., 2014; Tostanoski et al., 2014; Schlosser et al., 2014).
RPM requires an instructor's constant presence. Those using RPM acknowledge the likelihood of—and indicate a preference for—prompt dependency. For example, one page on the RPM website states, "Prompt dependency is preferred to the alternative of allowing no response or no learning to occur" (HALO, n.d.).
FC requires a "facilitator" (Biklen et al., 1991). Although the extent to which the "facilitator" touches the individual may be faded, the "facilitator" is not removed entirely and remains between the individual and the message (Schlosser et al., 2014).
There is no evidence from rigorous peer-reviewed research that independent or autonomous communication has been achieved with either approach.
Both FC and RPM maintain the person's reliance and dependence on the "facilitator" or instructor to deliver messages via the communication aid.
Both FC and RPM could result in the person with a disability learning to respond to increasingly subtle cues from the "facilitator" or instructor —nonetheless remaining dependent upon these cues to indicate letters.
Adverse Events/Risk of Harm
There is a risk that the messages produced using RPM are not authored by the individual but are instead authored by the person holding the "letterboard" (Chen et al., 2012). There is also a risk of the loss of time, money, and opportunity for access to effective treatments.
Other professional associations have warned members against using RPM (Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapists, 2017; Speech Pathology Australia, 2012; Speech-Language & Audiology Canada, 2018).
There is substantial evidence in court records of the harms that have come to people with disabilities and their families relating to the use of FC and false allegations of sexual abuse (Probst, 2005) and other forms of maltreatment, murder, rape, or indecent dealings (Boynton, 2012; Chan & Nankervis, 2014; Wombles, 2014).
There is extensive commentary in the literature and guidance from as many as 19 professional and advocacy organizations worldwide warning of the harms of FC and recommending against its use as a communication technique (Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan, n.d.).
Both FC and RPM pose a risk in terms of removing the person's access to the human right of communication. Both methods pose a risk that the "facilitator" or instructor—not the person with a disability—is the one authoring the messages. Neither method has provided evidence that any proposed measures taken to reduce this risk are effective.
Use of either of these techniques may deprive people with disabilities of opportunities to learn to communicate independently.
Link to ASHA statement on Rapid Prompting
Association for Behavior Analysis
Statement on Facilitated Communication
A technique, known as Facilitated Communication (FC), has been promoted and disseminated as a method for “revealing” undisclosed intellectual competence in persons diagnosed with autism, moderate to profound mental retardation, or other disabilities. FC is a technique wherein a facilitator touches the hand, arm, or shoulder of a person with communication deficits while they jointly point to symbols, letters, or words. Claims have been made that this technique permits many people with severe disabilities to communicate at levels far exceeding those demonstrated by any other means. These claims have been based on descriptive and qualitative reports or personal accounts. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific evaluations, however, indicate clearly and compellingly that FC does not allow persons diagnosed with disabilities to communicate at enhanced levels. The source of apparent communication is the facilitator, although most facilitators report that they are not aware that they are the source.
To date, there is no objective, scientifically sound evidence that FC has any direct therapeutic benefit. The use of FC to “communicate” entails serious risks, including: 1) Violating the rights of people with disabilities to autonomy, privacy, genuine self-expression, self-determination, protection from experimentation without informed consent, and appropriate education and treatment; 2) Promoting dependence rather than independence in people with disabilities; 3) Misusing human and material resources that could be better spent on other interventions, e.g., time spend employing FC interferes with the use of communication systems that have a scientifically documented history of success; 4) Fostering expectations about people with disabilities that are unlikely to be realized; 5) Taking actions related to medical or other treatments, living and work arrangements, personal relationships, test and classroom performance, and other decisions about people with disabilities without objective verification that the communications represent their own wishes and competencies; 6) Promulgating false allegations of abuse and mistreatment, resulting in emotional distress and unnecessary legal and financial difficulties for many people with disabilities, their families and others. Thus the use of FC directly threatens the human and civil rights of the person whose communication is purportedly “facilitated,” and may also jeopardize the rights of others.
Autism, mental retardation, and other disabilities can result in diverse and often marked deleterious effects on adaptive behavioral development and communication skills. Parents and other caregivers of persons manifesting these conditions consequently are highly motivated to seek and obtain service that offers any promise of being effective in ameliorating these conditions. As a result, such caregivers are vulnerable to those who promote ineffective methods.
FC is not to be confused with use of appropriately applied manual guidance or other prompts to teach communications and other skills, nor should it be confused with independent use of nonspeech communication systems that may involve letterboards, keyboards, or other symbol systems.
It is the position of the Association for Behavior Analysis that FC is a discredited technique. Because of the absence of ample, objective, scientific evidence that FC is beneficial and that identifies the specific conditions under which it may be used with benefit, its use is unwarranted and unethical.
A task force authorized by the Executive Council of the Association for Behavior Analysis generated the above statement concerning the technique called Facilitated Communication (FC). Members of the task force independently reviewed the scientific literature concerning FC and agreed unanimously to the content of the statement. The Executive Council unanimously approved the statement in 1995, and it is the official position of the Association for Behavior Analysis.
Link to original ABA statement
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Description: An intervention in which the service provider holds the participant’s hands, wrists, or arms to help him or her spell messages on a keyboard or a board with printed letters. Facilitated Communication is not the independent typing or use of a computerized device to assist communication.
Research Summary: Research evidence, replicated across several hundred children with autism spectrum disorders, shows that the facilitators rather than the individuals with autism spectrum disorders control the communication and that FC does not improve language skills (Mostert, 2001). Therefore, FC is an inappropriate intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Recommendations: Facilitated Communication is not a useful intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Systematic reviews of scientific studies: Mostert, M.P. (2001). Facilitated communication since 1995: A review of published studies. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 287-313.
Link to original ASAT statement
Autism & Asperger Förbundet (Autism and Asperger Association, Sweden)
Warning about FC (Swedish: Avråder från FC)
We advise against using facilitated communication.
Facilitated communication (FC) is a method by which a so-called "facilitator" provides physical support to someone who writes on a keyboard or similar device. By providing a slight pressure to the person’s hand, the facilitator make the person aware of it and thus enables him or her to write. It is said that it is not the facilitator controlling the person’s hand on the keyboard, but the person. The method was originally developed for people with severe cerebral palsy and normal intelligence. Over time, the method was applied to people with autism or mental retardation who lacked spoken language and could not write. In the mid-1990s, a large number of organizations distanced themselves from facilitated communication method and communication aids for this group.
For some time there have been attempts in Sweden to reestablish facilitated communication for people with autism or developmental disabilities, primarily through an association in Gothenburg. Therefore, we in the Autism and Asperger Association wish to be clear that there are a large number of studies that indicate that facilitated communication is totally dependent on the movement of the facilitator. In order for the person with autism or developmental disabilities to answer the questions, the facilitator must know the question and answer.
American Psychiatric Association, APA (which publishes the internationally used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual; DSM)* issued a press release in 1994 in which it wrote that several scientific studies had shown the facilitated output was entirely the work of the facilitators. It wrote that the use of facilitated communication can be a threat to the individual's social and human rights if it is used in conjunction with personal choice, personal statements about health, assessments and academic evaluations, or diagnostic and educational decisions. American Psychiatric Association continues to hold the position that facilitated communication is a controversial and non-validated method that lacks scientific support.
Other organizations in the 1990s distanced that themselves from the facilitated communication included the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association on Mental Retardation. In position statements about facilitated communication, they were clear that there are a large number of objective clinical evaluations and well-controlled studies showing that the method has failed to produce any validated results. It took away from the facilitated communication used for any decision affecting the individual. Instead, it encouraged the development of alternative forms of communication.
There has long been a strong consensus in Sweden and internationally that facilitated communication should not be used as a method for people with autism or mental retardation. In Sweden, the the Autism Forum (Stockholm County Council), Dart (West Sweden Communication and Data Resource Center at the Queen Silvia Children's Hospital in Gothenburg), and the National Board stated that they do not recommend the use of facilitated communication. Dart states that everyone is entitled to their own independent communication, and it is something we must constantly strive for. Today, they write, there are many other ways of communication where we can be sure that it is the person's own voice we hear.
The Autism and Asperger Association agrees that numerous studies have shown facilitated communication to be an unreliable and unproven approach. We advise against the use of facilitated communication for people with autism or mental retardation.
Eva Nordin-Olsson, President
Anna Calissendorff, Association Secretary
*This is an error. The statement was published by the American Psychological Association. The DSM is, however, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Trans: James T. Todd
(Original Swedish Text)
Avråder från FC
Vi avråder från användandet av faciliterad kommunikation.
Faciliterad kommunikation (facilitated communication, FC) är en metod där en så kallad facilitator eller faciliterare ger fysiskt stöd åt någon som skriver på ett tangentbord eller liknande. Genom att hålla i personens hand med ett lätt tryck menas faciliteraren göra personen medveten om sin egen hand och därigenom göra det möjligt för personen att uttrycka sig i skrift. Det hävdas att det inte är faciliteraren som styr handen över tangentbordet, det gör personen själv. Från början utvecklades metoden för personer med svår cerebral pares med normal begåvning. Med tiden kom metoden att användas också för personer med autism eller utvecklingsstörning som saknade talat språk och inte själva kunde skriva. I mitten av 1990-talet tog ett stort antal organisationer tydligt avstånd från faciliterad kommunikation som metod och kommunikationshjälpmedel för denna grupp.
Sedan en tid har det gjorts försök att i Sverige återlansera faciliterad kommunikation för personer med autism eller utvecklingsstörning, främst genom en förening i Göteborg. Därför vill vi i Autism- och Aspergerförbundet vara tydliga med att det finns ett stort antal studier som pekar på att faciliterad kommunikation är helt beroende av medsittaren, faciliteraren. För att personen med autism eller utvecklingsstörning ska kunna svara på frågor med stöd av faciliterad kommunikation förutsätter det att faciliteraren har hört frågan och kan svaret.
American Psychiatric Association, APA (som ger ut den internationellt använda diagnosmanualen DSM) gick i augusti 1994 ut med en pressrelease där man skrev att ett flertal vetenskapliga studier visat att det som skrivits i samband med faciliterad kommunikation är helt beroende av den medsittande faciliteraren. De skrev att användandet av faciliterad kommunikation kan vara ett hot mot individens samhälleliga och mänskliga rättigheter om det används i samband med personliga val, egna upplevelser av hälsotillstånd, bedömningar och skolarbeten samt diagnostiska och pedagogiska beslut. American Psychiatric Association hade då och har fortfarande som sin position att faciliterad kommunikation är en kontroversiell och icke-validerad metod som saknar vetenskapligt stöd.
Andra organisationer som under 1990-talet tog tydligt avstånd från faciliterad kommunikation var American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics och American Association on Mental Retardation med flera. I positionsuttalanden om faciliterad kommunikation klargjordes att det finns ett stort antal objektiva kliniska utvärderingar och välkontrollerade studier som alla redovisar att metoden inte har kunnat visa något validerat resultat. Man tog avstånd från att faciliterad kommunikation användes för några som helst beslut som påverkar individen. Istället uppmuntrade man utvecklandet av andra alternativa kommunikationsformer.
Det finns både i Sverige och internationellt sedan lång tid en stor enighet om att faciliterad kommunikation inte bör användas som metod för personer med autism eller utvecklingsstörning. I Sverige har Autismforum (Stockholms läns landsting), Dart (Västra Sveriges Kommunikations- och dataresurscenter vid Drottning Silvias barn- och ungdomssjukhus i Göteborg) och Socialstyrelsen uttalat att de avråder från användning av faciliterad kommunikation. Dart har påpekat att alla har rätt till egen självständig kommunikation och att det är något vi hela tiden måste sträva efter. Idag, skriver de, finns många andra vägar till kommunikation där vi kan vara säkra på att det är personens egen röst vi hör.
Autism- och Aspergerförbundet delar uppfattningen att faciliterad kommunikation i upprepade studier har visat sig vara en osäker och obekräftad metod. Vi avråder därför från att använda faciliterad kommunikation som metod för personer med autism eller utvecklingsstörning.
Eva Nordin-Olsson, ordförande
Anna Calissendorff, förbundssekreterare
Link to original Autism & Asperger Förbundet statement
Link to PDF version of Autism & Asperger Förbundet statement
Autism Society of Canada (ASC)/La Société canadienne de l ’autisme (SCA)
Experts report that FC as a stand-alone program approach is ineffective and potentially harmful for individuals with ASD. Evidence-Based Practices for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Review of the Literature and Practice Guide (Adrienne Perry & Rosemary Condillac, Children's Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, 2003)
Selon des experts, si la CF est l’unique programme utilisé, elle est inefficace, voire dommageable pour les personnes atteintes d’un TED. Source: Pratiques fondées sur les résultats s’appliquant aux enfants et aux adolescents atteints de troubles du spectre autistique: Examen des travaux de recherche et guide pratique, (Adrienne Perry & Rosemary Condillac, Santé Mentale pour Enfants, Toronto, Ontario, 2003.)
Link to original statements: English/French
Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan
Resolution of the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan against the use of "Facilitated Communication."
(Adopted at the 1998 Annual Convention)
Summary: Numerous peer-reviewed scientific analyses have demonstrated that facilitated communication is not a reliable or valid communication method and should not be used.
Facilitated communication is a technique by which a "facilitator" physically supports the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired person while that person uses a keyboard, typewriter, or other pointing-based communication device. The proponents of facilitated communication claim that this technique is distinct from simple manual prompting and enables certain persons with autism and other developmental and physical disabilities to communicate. Numerous empirically based, peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated that facilitated communication is incapable of establishing "unexpected literacy" or producing valid messages above the facilitated individual's previously established communicative level.
Therefore, because it is the position of the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM) that the use of any augmentative communication technique must be based upon clear, objective, and scientifically valid evidence that the augmented communications of any individual are reliably and unambiguously attributable to that individual, BAAM does not support or endorse the use of facilitated communication as a form of therapy, communications system, or a means of making important decisions relevant to individuals whose communication is facilitated. In particular, communication arising from the use of facilitated communication should not be used to confirm or deny accusations of abuse, neglect, or other crimes, and should not be used to make decisions concerning treatment, diagnosis, housing, or custody. BAAM strongly endorses and encourages the development, scientific validation, and use of augmentative and alternative communication techniques and demonstrably effective treatments designed to establish functional independent living skills in all persons with disabilities.
[Original Includes a list over over 400 signatories.]
Link to original BAAM Resolution
Resolution on Facilitated Communication (Deutsche: Gestützten Kommunikation)
(Heilpädagogische Forschung Nr. 1 2003)
Facilitated communication is a pedagogical method for the handicapped in which it is assumed that individuals with autism and/or mental illness can be made able to communicate with others, usually in writing. With facilitated communication the person in question (FC-writer) is "facilitated" on the wrist, arm, upper arm, or other body part and types meaningful messages letter by letter. The technique was the subject of a large number of controlled studies in the United States during the 1990s. In these studies, despite careful experimental methodology, no authentic communication could be proven in roughly 80% of the participating subjects, and in the remaining 20% no practically relevant observable improvement in communication appeared. 75% of the corresponding research subjects were shown to be steered by the facilitating person (Biermann 1999). Critical analyses of the studies with results in favor of the method hint at methodological shortcomings (most recently the critical review of the Munich study from Bober, 2000). Besides the lack of empirical basis, there are also no theoretical underpinnings from the specialized fields of autism, speech research or mental illness that can be invoked (Nußbeck, 2000). The advocates of facilitated communication more often tend to call into question basic knowledge of the areas of autism, mental illness, and linguistics and to redefine austism and mental illness according to their purported results as a predominantly motor/ "practical acting" ["handlungspraktische"] disability. In this manner the content of the facilitated messages are often used as arguments for the method. Facilitated communication is consequently a technique whose effectiveness has been contradicted. Parents, educators, and therapists must be informed about the clear negative research results before they decide on FC. Since despite the clear findings it cannot ultimately be ruled out that very rare individuals can be facilited to communicate, we encourage that in each isolated case the authenticity of the FC-messages be demonstrated under controlled conditions. This goes especially for public institutions, when school measurements, educational programs, living situations, etc. are changed based on FC-statements and whenever public funds for FC-support are demanded.
This resolution concurs in its demands with resolutions and position papers from:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 1998)
American Association of Mental Retardation (AAMR, 1994)
American Psychological Association (APA, 1994)
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA, 1995)
Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP, 1993)
[Original Resolution includes a list of 41 signatories]
(Original German Text)
Resolution zur Gestützten Kommunikation (English: Facilitated Communication/FC)
(Heilpädagogische Forschung Nr. 1 2003)
Die Gestützte Kommunikation ist eine sonderpädagogische Methode, bei der angenommen wird, dass durch sie Menschen mit Autismus und/oder geistiger Behinderung befähigt werden können, mit anderen Menschen in der Regel schriftsprachlich zu kommunizieren. Bei der Gestützten Kommunikation wird die betreffende Person (FC-Schreiber) von einer anderen Person (Stützer) am Handgelenk, Arm, Oberarm oder anderem Körperteil "gestützt" und tippt so Buchstabe für Buchstabe sinnvolle Botschaften. Als Kommunikationsmethode ist die Technik in den neunziger Jahren in den USA Gegenstand zahlreicher kontrollierter Studien gewesen. Hierbei stellte sich heraus, dass trotz sorgfältiger Versuchsplanung bei ca. 80% der beteiligten Versuchspersonen keinerlei authentische Kommunikation nachgewiesen werden konnte und bei den übrigen 20% keine praxisrelevanten Verbesserungen hinsichtlich der Kommunikation auftraten. Bei 75% der entsprechend untersuchten Versuchspersonen ließ sich jedoch eine inhaltliche Steuerung der FC-Botschaften durch die stützenden Personen nachweisen (vgl. Biermann,1999). Kritische Analysen der Studien mit für die Methode sprechenden Ergebnissen deuten auf methodische Mängel der Untersuchungen hin (vgl. zuletzt die kritische Rezension der Münchner Studie von Bober, 2000). Neben den empirischen Grundlagen lassen sich auch keine theoretischen Untermauerungen für die Methode der Gestützten Kommunikation in den Fachgebieten des Autismus, der Spracherwerbsforschung und der geistigen Behinderung heranziehen (vgl. Nußbeck, 2000). Die Vertreterinnen und Vertreter der Gestützten Kommunikation treten vielmehr an, grundlegende Erkenntnisse aus den Bereichen des Autismus, der geistigen Behinderung und des Schriftspracherwerbs in Frage zu stellen und Autismus und geistige Behinderung auf Grund ihrer vermeintlichen Ergebnisse als überwiegend motorische/handlungspraktische Störungen neu zu definieren. Dabei werden häufig die Inhalte der gestützt hervor gebrachten Botschaften als Argumente für die Methode benutzt. Die Gestützte Kommunikation ist somit eine in ihrer Effektivität widerlegte Technik. Eltern und pädagogisch oder therapeutisch tätige Personen müssen über die eindeutig negative Forschungslage aufgeklärt werden, bevor sie sich für FC entscheiden. Da allerdings trotz der eindeutigen Befundlage letztlich nicht ausgeschlossen werden kann, dass sehr vereinzelt Menschen gestützt kommunizieren können, fordern wir, dass in jedem Einzelfall unter kontrollierten Bedingungen die Authentizität der FC-Botschaften nachgewiesen werden muss. Dies gilt insbesondere in öffentlichen Einrichtungen, wenn schulische Maßnahmen, Förderprogramme, Wohnsituationen etc. auf Grund von FC-Aussagen verändert werden sollen und wenn öffentliche Gelder zur FC-Stütze beansprucht werden.
Link to original Heilpädagogische Forschung resolution
ISAAC Position Statement on Facilitated Communication
(International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication)
Given ISAAC's mission to promote the best possible communication abilities and opportunities for persons with limited or no functional speech, ISAAC does not support FC as a valid form of AAC, a valid means for people to access AAC, or a valid means to communicate important life decisions. The weight of evidence does not support FC and therefore it cannot be recommended for use in clinical practice.
Members of ISAAC have been increasingly concerned about the continued use of Facilitated Communication (FC) despite concerns about the validity of FC, that is, whether the messages constructed with facilitation originate from the person to whom they are attributed or by the facilitator. Therefore, ISAAC established an Ad Hoc Committee on Facilitated Communication (henceforth referred to as “the Committee”) to review research evidence into the validity of FC.
FC (also described as “supported typing”) is a technique whereby individuals with disabilities and communication impairments allegedly select letters by typing on a keyboard while receiving physical support, emotional encouragement, and other communication supports from facilitators. The physical support may occur at the index finger, hand, arm, elbow, or shoulder. The method involves a communication partner who may provide emotional encouragement, communication supports (e.g., monitoring to make sure the person looks at the keyboard and checks for typographical errors) and a variety of physical supports.
The main issue that is being disputed is whether the output produced when persons with disabilities are being facilitated is expressing their communicative intentions, or whether the source of the output is that of the facilitators. To address this issue, the Committee engaged in a systematic search for research evidence in the peer-reviewed literature. The Committee then classified and analyzed this peer-reviewed research evidence, along with the materials submitted by the ISAAC membership, based on its informativeness to the central question of authorship.
The following conclusions of ISAAC are based on this process:
(1) Multiple reports from various stakeholders (e.g., former FC users, parents, professionals) describe that FC has had a positive impact on their lives. Given their anecdotal nature, these reports cannot be taken as irrefutable evidence for supporting a demonstration of authorship;
(2) Multiple reports from various stakeholders (e.g., parents, professionals) assert negative impacts and harms of FC on their lives. Given their anecdotal nature, these reports cannot be taken as irrefutable evidence against authorship;
(3) Systematic reviews of numerous controlled authorship studies provide evidence that the messages are authored by facilitators rather than persons with a disability. There is also some evidence that the message construction by facilitators may occur without awareness of producing such a construction;
(4) An analysis of three additional authorship studies, more recent than the systematic reviews, bolsters the conclusion of previous systematic reviews, in # (3), even further;
(5) Several allegations of sexual abuse have been communicated via FC, and as documented in one systematic review, the overwhelming majority of communicative messages were influenced by facilitator control. There has also been evidence by courts against the possible truth of many allegations. It is beyond the scope of this committee to outline the several secondary harms of FC, including harms to people with disability and their families arising from false allegations of sexual abuse;
(6) Recent studies providing descriptive analyses of the output generated via FC draw inferences about authorship that are inappropriate. Without prior verification of authorship through empirical means, there are many rival explanations for how messages are constructed leaving the nature of the authorship unanswered. Given the inordinate evidence for facilitator influence (see #3), the inferences that are made in these descriptive studies are methodologically unsound and should not be used to guide practice or future research; and
7) The use of FC appears to be in violation of several articles of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (i.e., Articles 12, 16, 17, and 21) as it has been shown to prevent individuals without sufficient spoken language from using their own “voice.” With the use of FC, the messages may be attributed to facilitators. For persons with limited or no functional speech, the use of FC risks the loss of valuable assessment and intervention efforts, time, and resources that might otherwise have been expended to implement AAC systems and strategies that are empirically validated and do not leave doubt about authorship.
In conclusion, given ISAAC's mission to promote the best possible communication abilities and opportunities for persons with limited or no functional speech, ISAAC does not support FC as a valid form of AAC, a valid means for people to access AAC, or a valid means to communicate important life decisions. The weight of evidence does not support FC and therefore it cannot be recommended for use in clinical practice. This position statement is consistent with the position statements of the following reputable organizations: American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 1998), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP, 1993), American Association of Mental Retardation (AAMR, 1995), American Psychiatric Association Council of Representatives (APACR, 1994), American Psychological Association (APA, 1994), American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA, 1995), Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA, 2005), Association for Science in Autism Treatment, Autism & Asperger Förbundet (2012), Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM, 1998), New Zealand Ministries of Health and Education (2008), Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (2007), Speech Pathology Australia (2012), Socialstyrelsen (The National Board of Health and Welfare, Sweden, 2014), Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disabilities Inc (VALID, 2012), and Heilpaedagogische Forschung (2003).
Link to Original ISAAC Statement
Lakes Region Community College (LRCC)
(From LRCC Americans with Disabilities Act Policy)
It is the policy of the system colleges, through their respective Disabilities Coordinators, to provide all accommodations deemed reasonable and appropriate in compliance with Federal and state requirements. Facilitated communication is a technique by which a “facilitator” provides physical and other supports in an attempt to assist a person with a significant communication disability to point to pictures, objects, printed letters and words, or to keyboard. Both the American Psychological Association and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association have developed position papers in which they state they can find no conclusive scientific evidence that facilitated messages reliably express the feelings, ideas, and intentions of the disabled individual. The American Psychological Association states: “facilitated communication is a controversial and unproved communicative procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy.” The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association states: “When information available to facilitators is controlled and objective evaluation methods are used, peer-reviewed studies and clinical assessments find no conclusive evidence that facilitated messages can be reliably attributed to people with disabilities.
The System colleges must be assured that the academic standards and competencies for a course are being met by the student when a course is taken for credit. Since it cannot be definitively demonstrated that by using facilitated communication the student, as opposed to the facilitator, has mastery of the subject matter, facilitated communication is not a reasonable or appropriate accommodation that the College is required to provide. While determination on the appropriateness of reasonable accommodations is made on a case by case basis by the Disabilities Coordinator in consultation with the instructor, the Colleges do not accept a scientifically discredited technique, such as facilitated communication, as meeting the academic standards or demonstrating student competency. In distinguishing between augmented communication and facilitated communication, in particular, the College must be satisfied that all work is being done by the student and not by an intermediary agent.
Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities (MADSEC)
Description of Facilitated Communication
Rosemary Crossley first introduced facilitated communication (FC) in Australia in the 1970s, as a technique to help individuals with cerebral palsy and physical disabilities communicate. In 1989, Douglas Biklen began to use FC in the United States, with people who have autism. According to Smith (1996), “Facilitated Communication (Bilken, 1993) derives from the hypothesis that children and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities have a motor
deficit that prevents them from expressing themselves even though they possess a sophisticated understanding of spoken and written language. To overcome this conjectured problem, trained facilitators (professionals or nonprofessionals who have completed a workshop on the treatment) hold people’s hands, wrists, or arms to help them spell messages on a keyboard or a board with printed letters. . . . According to reports, when people who were
previously thought to have no communicative language participated in Facilitated Communication, they began to compose poetry, divulge personal thoughts and feelings, excel at advanced schoolwork, and display many other complex language skills.”
There is some confusion between the terms “facilitated communication” and “augmentative communication” or “augmentative and alternative communication” (AAC). Facilitated communication is based upon the premise that individuals with autism have “undisclosed literacy” (Biklen, 1990). “It is a technique wherein a facilitator touches the hand, arm or shoulder of a person with communication deficits while they jointly point to symbols, letters or words. . .
FC is not to be confused with use of appropriately applied manual guidance or other prompts to teach communication and other skills, nor should it be confused with independent use of nonspeech communication systems that may involve letterboards, keyboards, or other symbol systems” (ABA, 1995).
Biklen and colleagues have contributed the majority of articles supporting the use of facilitated communication with children with autism. Biklen theorizes people with autism and developmental disabilities are able to display normal to high level intellectual skills, once they are able to communicate through the use of FC. Biklen estimates that 90% of children with autism will be able to communicate using FC (Biklen, 1990, 1992; Biklen & Schubert, 1991;
Biklen, et al, 1991; Biklen, et al, 1992; Biklen, 1993). These studies are based on qualitative methodologies and include many anecdotal reports of successful intervention. However, none of these studies were scientifically validated.
Many primary research studies have attempted to replicate the findings of Biklen and his colleagues. According to Eberlin, et al (1993), “To date, all published reports of facilitated communication showing unexpected literacy skills have been based on uncontrolled or poorly controlled case study accounts.” MADSEC’s review of the literature was similarly unable to find any scientific studies which support claims that facilitated communication produces independent communication originating from a person with autism.
Many procedures have been employed to determine the effectiveness of FC. The use of a mechanical tool to support the subject’s arm instead of a facilitator has shown that individuals are unable to independently respond to a statistically significantly number of questions without a human facilitator present (Kezuka, 1997). This procedure was not widely tested because proponents of facilitated communication contend the facilitator provides security and trust in the individual’s abilities, and that a bond must be formed prior to communication (eg Biklen, 1990). Several researchers have used blind testing conditions. In these studies, the facilitators were unaware of the questions presented to the subject, testing information was unknown to the facilitator, or visual stimuli used was undisclosed to the facilitator (eg Bebko, et al, 1996; Braman, et al, 1995; Hirshorn & Gregory, 1995; Simpson & Myles, 1995; Simpson & Myles, 1994, among others.) In each of these studies, subjects were unable to respond correctly to most or all of the questions for which the facilitator lacked information. One controlled study found that out of 720 communicative interactions unknown to a facilitator, subjects were able to disclose correct information during 77 interactions (Sheehan & Matuozzi, 1996). Kezuka conducted a study of the ideomotor movements of the facilitator. This was done by analyzing video tape of a facilitated subject one video frame at a time (30 frames per second.) Examination revealed the subject made many quick moves toward various keys, passing the correct keys before returning to them. The subject demonstrated difficulty using a facilitator she had not worked with recently, and was unable to communicate through unknown facilitators. According to the investigators, this study suggests a type of unconscious motor movement by sender. Numerous visual cues were also noted. Kezuka’s findings suggested that the subject received very subtle unconscious cueing from the facilitator, which allowed her to return to the correct key. Kezuka contends the cueing relationship between the facilitator and the subject is merely the result of operant conditioning. Each time the subject responds correctly, the facilitator praises the subject, therefore reinforcing the behavior. The subject becomes very in tune to the motor movements of the facilitator, and is completely dependent upon these to communicate. The facilitator, unaware of these ideomotor movements, is encouraged by the subject’s ability to communicate. Kezuka concluded that “The role of contact is not one of emotional support or even simply physical support, but one of motor control.” (Kezuka, 1997).
Many professionals urge caution in the use of FC. Moore, et al (1993) says, “The issue of determining the origin of messages in facilitated communication is an important one for several reasons. First, from an ethical standpoint, it is imperative that communications be attributed to the correct source. While this is so for the general population, it is particularly so for people with disabilities who are less able to correct errors of attribution of this sort. Second, an accurate knowledge of a disabled persons’ communication skills is necessary if service providers are to make the most suitable programs available to the person. Finally, the nature of the content of some critical communications is such that serious errors of justice may be associated with incorrectly attributed communications.” “Serious errors of justice” may occur because, according to Smith, “one well-known investigator estimated that 25% of typically-developing children are victims of molestation, and that the incidence of molestation in children with autism is “more than four times” [25%]!” (Hence, the “well-known investigator” asserted that more than 100% of children with autism are victims of molestation.) Smith continues, “While such mathematical gaffes are amusing, the real-life effects are not: Accusations of molestation often have arisen from Facilitated Communication, and many of these accusations have been directed at parents. Such accusations almost always prove to be unfounded, as would be expected given the fact that the child did not author them. Even so, some of the accusations have caused children to be taken away from their parents for extended periods of time while investigations were ongoing. Falsely accused families in several countries have spent thousands of dollars defending themselves and have experienced immeasurable trauma” (Smith, 1996).
Bligh and Kupperman conducted a court-requested investigation into the validity of accusations of sexual abuse allegedly made by a 10-year-old girl through facilitated communication. When the evaluation was concluded, lawyers agreed that the communication had been from the facilitator, not the child. It was reported that the child had been removed from her home, and that the child and family suffered much distress and personal anguish (Bligh and Kupperman, 1993). Bligh and Kupperman further raised questions resulting from this case for further consideration:
At least five respected organizations have issued position papers on facilitated communication. Following are excerpts:
American Psychological Association: “APA adopts the position that facilitated communication is a controversial and unproved communicative procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy” (1994).
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “FC is not a scientifically valid technique for individuals with autism or mental retardation. In particular, information obtained via FC should not be used to confirm or deny allegations of abuse, or make diagnostic or treatment decisions” (1994).
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: “Facilitated communication may have negative consequences if it precludes the use of effective and appropriate treatment, supplants other forms of communication, and/or leads to false or unsubstantiated allegations of abuse or mistreatment” (1994).
American Association on Mental Retardation: “The American Association on Mental Retardation does not support the use of this technique [FC] as the basis for making any important decisions relevant to the individual being facilitated without clear, objective evidence as to the authorship of such messages” (1994).
Association for Behavior Analysis: “It is the position of the Association for Behavior Analysis that FC is a discredited technique. Because of the absence of ample objective, scientific evidence that FC is beneficial and that identifies the specific conditions under which it may be used with benefit, its use is unwarranted and unethical” (1995).
Accumulated peer-reviewed, empirically-based research studies have not supported the effectiveness of facilitated communication. Equally important, the research has substantiated the potential for great harm (Foxx, 1995; Margolin, 1994, Myers, 1994). Researchers may consider further investigation using research protocols, with particular care to protect subjects and their families against harm. It is not recommended that professionals consider the use of facilitated communication.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1993, October). Policy statement on facilitated communication. AACAP Newsletter February, 1994
American Association on Mental Retardation (1994). AAMR Board approves policy on facilitated communication. AAMR News & Notes, 7(1), 1.
American Psychological Association. (1994, August). Resolution on facilitated communication.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1995, March). Position statement facilitated communication. ASHA, 37, 22.
Association for Behavior Analysis (1995). Statement on facilitated communication. The ABA Newsletter, 18(2).
Bebko, J., Perry, A. Bryson, S. (1996). Multiple method validation study of facilitated communication: Individual differences and subgroup results. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 26(1), 19-42.
Biklen, D. (1992). Autism orthodoxy verses free speech: A reply to Cummins and Prior. Harvard Educational Review, 62, 242-256.
Biklen, D. (1990). Communication unbound: Autism and praxis. Harvard Educational Review, 60, 291-314.
Biklen, D. (1993). Communication unbound. New York: Teacher’s College Press.
Biklen, D., Morton, M.W., Gold, D., Berrigan, C., & Swaminathan, S. (1992). Facilitated communication: Implications for individuals with autism. Topics in Language Disorders, 12(4),1-27.
Biklen, D., Morton, M., Saha, S., Duncan, J. Gold, D. Hardardottir, M., Karna, E., O’Connor, S., & Rao, S. (1991). “I amn not autistivc on thje typ” (I am not autistic on the typewriter”). Disability, Handicap and Society, 6(3), 161-180.
Biklen, D. & Schubert, A. (1991). New words: The communication of students with autism. Remedial and Special Education, 12, 46-57.
Bligh, S. Kupperman, P. (1993). Facilitated communication evaluation procedure accepted in a court case. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23(3), 553-557.
Boomer, L.W. & Garrison-Harrell, L. (1995). Legal issues concerning children with autism with autism and pervasive developmental disabilities. Behavioral Disorders, 21(1), 53-61.
Botash, A.S., Babuts, D., Mitchell, N., O’Hara, M., Lynch, L. & Manual, J. (1994). Evaluations of children who have disclosed sexual abuse via facilitated communication. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 148(12), 1282-1287.
Braman, B.J. (1995). Facilitated communication for children with autism: An examination of face validity. Behavioral Disorders, 21(1), 110-119.
Center for Community Inclusion, Maine’s UAP, University of Maine. History of the validation controversy. 2-41.
Eberlin, M., McConnachie, G., Ibel, S., Volpe, L. (1993). Facilitated communication: A failure to replicate the phenomenon. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23(3), 507-530.
Foxx, R. (1995). APA passes facilitated communication resolution. Psychology in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 20, 18-20.
Hirshorn, A & Gregory, J. (1995). Further negative findings on facilitated communications. Psychology in the Schools, 32(2), 109-113.
Hudson, A., Melita, B., & Arnold, N. (1993). Brief Report: A case study assessing the validity of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23(1), 165-173.
Jacobson, J., Mulick, J., & Schwartz, A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication. American Psychologist, 50(9). 750-765.
Kezuka, E. (1997). The role of touch in facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 27(5), 571-593.
Margolin, K.N. (1994). How shall facilitated communication be judged? Facilitated communication and the legal system. In H.C. Shane (Ed.), Facilitated communication: The clinical and social phenomenon (pp.227-258). San Diego, CA: Singular Press.
Moore, S., Donovan, B., Hudson, A., Dykstra, J., & Lawrence, J. (1993). Brief Report: Evaluation of eight case studies of facilitated communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23(3), 531-539.
Myers, J. (1994). The tendency of the legal system to distort scientific and clinical innovations: Facilitated communication as a case study. Child Abuse and Neglect, 18(6), 505-513.
Myles, B.S. & Simpson, R.L. (1994). Facilitated communication with children diagnosed as autistic in public school settings. Psychology in the Schools, 31(3), 208-220.
Sheenan, C.M., Matzuozzi, R.T. (1996). Investigation of the validity of facilitated communication through the disclosure of unknown information. Mental Retardation, 34(2), 94-107.
Simpson, R.L. & Myles, B.S. (1995). Effectiveness of facilitated communication with children and youth with autism. Journal of Special Education, 28(4), 424-439.
Simpson, R., & Myles, B. (1995). Facilitated communication and children with disabilities: An enigma in the search perspective. Focus on Exceptional Children, 27(9), 1-16
Smith, T. (1996). Are other treatments effective? In Maurice, C., Green, G., & Luce, S., (Eds.). Behavioral interventions for young children with autism: A manual for parents and professionals. (pp 45-46). Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed.
Report of the MADSEC Autism Task Force
New York State Department of Health
Facilitated communication involves a "facilitator" who supports the child's hand on a keyboard or letter board while the child types or spells messages. Proponents of this therapy suggest that the messages are communications coming from the child.
In studies of facilitated communication used in older children with autism, the messages typed by the children are often far beyond their capabilities as evidenced by their behavior or language. Studies of facilitated communication suggest that communication that exceeds baseline levels for a subject originates from the facilitator rather than the child.
Use of facilitated communication has brought up a number of ethical and legal issues. There have been cases where messages produced with facilitated communication have caused emotional distress to parents or have led to accusations of abuse that resulted in legal proceedings.
Because of the lack of evidence for efficacy and possible harms of using facilitated communication, it is strongly recommended that facilitated communication not be used as an intervention method in young children with autism.
[Evidence Rating: No Evidence Meeting Criteria]
Link to original NYSD statement
New Zealand Ministries of Health and Education
Recommendation on Facilitated Communication
There has been considerable controversy about whether the facilitated output is from the person with ASD or is under the influence of the facilitator. A large number of quantitative studies show facilitator influence. There is no scientific validation of Facilitated Communication and it is not recommended (Recommendation 4.5.2).
From: Ministries of Health and Education (2008). New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline.
Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Health
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC)
Official Statement: "Use of Facilitated Communication and Rapid Prompting Method"
SAC does not support use of facilitated communication and/or rapid prompting method by its members and associates in clinical practice.
Facilitated communication (FC), also known as supported typing, involves the use of a facilitator to guide a person with a communication disorder in typing his or her thoughts. Rapid prompting method (RPM) is a related method where a facilitator elicits a response from a nonverbal person using a series of intensive prompts.
Consistent with SAC’s Code of Ethics, SAC members and associates are required to engage in responsible practice of their professions by providing services and information supported by current scientific and professional research. There is a lack of substantive research evidence demonstrating that FC and RPM are valid forms of augmentative or alternative communication (Boynton, 2012; Schlosser, Balandin, Hemsley, Iacono, Probst, & von Tetzchner, 2014; Hemsley, 2016). Research studies show that facilitators consciously and/or unconsciously influence the message being communicated (Schlosser et al., 2014), thereby exposing people with communication disorders to risk of harm by preventing genuine self-expression (Travers, Tincani, & Lang, 2016). For these reasons, SAC members and associates should not use FC and RPM in clinical practice.
From: Speech-Language Audiology Canada
Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability, Inc. (VALID)
Position Statement on the Use of Facilitated Communication
As an advocacy group for people with intellectual disability, VALID’s primary concern is to empower people to assert their rights and to be free from all forms of manipulation, exploitation and abuse. VALID is deeply concerned that despite consistent independent, empirical evidence against the use of ‘Facilitated Communication’, the practice still continues without appropriate safeguards.
1. VALID strongly endorses and encourages the development, scientific validation, and use of assistive and augmentative communication techniques and demonstrably effective treatments designed to establish functional independent living skills in all persons with disabilities:
UNCRPD Article 21: Freedom of expression and opinion
‘"Governments should take steps to ensure that disabled people can express their views freely and access information on an equal basis to everyone else."
2. VALID believes that the use of any assistive or augmentative communication technique—including the occasional use of physical prompting —must be based upon clear, objective, and scientifically valid evidence that the communications of any individual are reliably and unambiguously attributable to that individual.
3. While VALID respects the right of people to believe in alternative methods of communication we do not accept they have the right to impose their practices on vulnerable people without proper accountability, transparency and independent scrutiny.
4. VALID is concerned that the personal or professional interests of those who are practising or promoting Facilitated Communication might sometimes be in conflict with the rights and interests of the person with a disability:
UNCRPD Article 12: Equal recognition before the law
‘If decisions are made that relate to a person’s capacity to understand, then there must be safeguards against abuse...someone else should only be speaking for you to the extent that it is necessary and for as long as is appropriate. There should be a regular and independent review of the steps taken to make sure that there is no conflict of interest and that the disabled person’s rights and interests are properly respected."
5. The overwhelming research evidence indicates that Facilitated Communication emanates from the facilitator and not the client and should therefore be referred to as ‘automatic’ or ‘false communication’ not facilitated communication:
‘In automatic communication, the messages are produced by the facilitator without the disabled individual being aware of this. In false communication, the messages are consciously produced by facilitators in order to somehow meet their own ends...’ [Facilitated, Automatic and False Communication; Stephen Tetzchner, European Journal of Special Needs Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, 1996]
6. VALID believes people with a disability have the right to be free from all forms of abuse:
UNCRPD Article 16: Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse
‘Governments must do everything they can to protect disabled people from all forms of exploitation... and abuse at home and in the community... Article 16 says that there needs to be independent monitoring of facilities and programmes for disabled people...’
7. VALID believes people with a disability have the right to be accepted for who they are – and not as others might represent them to be:
UNCRPD Article 17: Protecting the integrity of the person
‘Every disabled person has the same right as anyone else to respect for their physical and mental integrity...This means that disabled people’s minds and bodies are their own. No one should ever treat a disabled person as less of a person or interfere with their minds and bodies. People have the right to be respected by others just as they are.’
8. VALID is concerned that FC practices, rather than serving to unlock the potential of people with a disability, might actually serve to obscure and oppress the development of their true character and identity. The use of any techniques or methods that do not have peer-reviewed and scientific validation risk abusing the inherent dignity and rights of vulnerable persons with a disability:
‘Well-meaning facilitators who unconsciously speak for the disabled do so at the expense of being sensitive to more subtle behavioural cues that can effectively communicate an individual’s wants and needs. Not since the days of warehouse institutionalization have the disabled experienced as much powerlessness and loss of autonomy as they do with well-meaning facilitators today.’ [Facilitated Communication in America,’ Brian Gorman, 1998]
9. VALID does not support or endorse the use of Facilitated Communication as a form of therapy, communications system, or as a means of making important life decisions. In particular, communication arising from the use of Facilitated Communication should not be used to confirm or deny accusations of abuse, neglect, or other crimes, and should not be used to make decisions concerning guardianship or administration, treatment, diagnosis, housing, or custody.
10. VALID therefore believes that:
Reference: Equality and Human Rights Commission Guidance
Link to original VALID statement
Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan, Department of Psychology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197