Facilitated Communication

In response to an ABC 7:30 report on Facilitated Communication (FC) the ABC disability website “Ramp Up” has posted an article entitled “Facilitated Communication; from the inside” by Marlena Katene, who herself uses both FC and independent typing (FC is faster for her, which is why she still uses it). In it she tells of her own battles against prejudice that it could be her communicating when she is assisted.

In high school I recall the frustration of sitting an exam three times with results getting worse each time. The first time the teacher (who was special education trained) did not believe I could do so well. After the third time however, she was convinced it reflected my true abilities as I failed the exam. I wonder if I had passed ten times; would they have kept making me do the same exam until I failed?

She also raises an important human rights issue; if you cannot communicate just how reliable are others assesments of your intelligence ?

The ABC 7.30 report mentioned, more than once, that those using facilitated communication in the story had the intellectual capacity of three-year-olds. Without access to appropriate communication, I wonder how the testers came to this conclusion.

If I took you and dumped you in a country where you could not converse in the language or use their writing system just how well would you do on their intelligence test? The concern always mentioned is “how do we know it is them communicating?” – but if you take away this then surely the same question applies to people trying to interpret their behaviour and signs – the observers there will be putting their own spin on things, conciously or unconciously.

One of my fears is that if able-bodied people prevent people with communication disorders from accessing FC then they will never get the opportunity to progress to becoming independent communicators. There are plenty of such people out there but I suspect mentioning their existence would be rather inconvenient for those opposing FC – how on earth could you justify campaigning against them developing their own, independent, personal and uncontrolled communication. In my wife’s blog around this report called “The ABC of valid facilitated communication” she mentions the people she’s known who have taken this path.

I could talk about the many non-verbal people I’ve known who progressed through supported communication to independent typing… Birger Sellin, Tito Mukhopadhyay, Richard Attfield, Kayla Takeuchi, Larry Bissonnette, Sue Rubin, Carley Fleishman, Heather Barratt, Sydney Edmond, Lucy Blackman, to name just a few of the most well known.

I will add to that that I have also met Richard, Sydney and Lucy and note that Sue Rubin wrote a documentary film about her life called “Autism is a World” which was nominated for the “Best Documentary Short Subject” Oscar in the 2004 Academy Awards. Donna also interviewed Richard for her blog back in 2007.