facilitated communication (FC)

FC is amazing because it has surpassed all other junk science fads, affecting families, schools, universities, the law, and even the arts. --Brian J. Gorman

Facilitated Communication (FC) is a technique that allegedly allows communication by those who were previously unable to communicate by speech or signs due to autism, mental retardation, brain damage, or such diseases as cerebral palsy. The technique involves a facilitator who places her hand over that of the patient's hand, arm or wrist, which is placed on a board or keyboard with letters, words or pictures. The patient is allegedly able to communicate through his or her hand to the hand of the facilitator which then is guided to a letter, word or picture, spelling out words or expressing complete thoughts. Through their facilitators, previously mute patients recite poems, carry on high level intellectual conversations, or simply communicate. Parents are grateful to discover that their child is not hopelessly retarded but is either normal or above normal in intelligence. FC allows their children to demonstrate their intelligence; it provides them with a vehicle heretofore denied them. But is it really their child who is communicating? Most skeptics believe that the only one doing the communication is the facilitator. The American Psychological Association has issued a position paper on FC, stating that "Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that facilitated communication is not a scientifically valid technique for individuals with autism or mental retardation" and describing FC as "a controversial and unproved communicative procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy."

read the rest here

I posted this because facilitated communication is back in the news with this story:
Man in Coma 23 Years – Is He Really Conscious?

Basically it is Ouija board nonsense.

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Replies to This Discussion

dowsing has a similar effect.
I need to qualify that link - my limited understanding assumes that FC can also include children too young to communicate, as in the linked case. I enjoy being corrected if I'm wrong (for the benefit of any lurking space cadets).
My father was livid when he saw that story.
My skepticism may have begun in my youth when I could never get the ouija board to work. That was when others tried to convince me that it was just because I didn't believe in it. I think I transferred that explanation to religion. A great discussion of the McMartin trial can be found in the book "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)", which is by two research psychologists on the subject of self-justification from the perspective of cognitive dissonance theory. The authors cite a lot of studies and seem to recommend healthy skepticism.
The Skeptic Zone #58 LIVE. James Randi on Facilitated Communication : http://bit.ly/q1zOo
Oh Oh Oh, I want to see what happens if someone tries facilitated communication with Sarah Palin. Maybe she actually has a thought process and we just need facilitated communication to find out what it is. Or maybe it's been done - is that how she wrote her book? Cool!
Oh, now you're just being cruel, Daniel. We shouldn't toy with Palin like that. We should just take her off life support and let her die with dignity.
: )
Jason, You used the words "Palin" and "dignity" in the same paragraph! Cool! You win the A|N cognitive dissonance award!

update on the Man in Coma 23 Years – Is He Really Conscious? article here




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