Friday, May 12, 2006

No to facilitators quacking

Just learned from the Bad Astronomer that Time has autism as its cover story. The article starts off with anecdotal evidence for facilitated communication.

Hannah, whose speech was limited to snatches of songs, echoed dialogue and unintelligible utterances, is profoundly autistic, and doctors thought she was most likely retarded. But on that October day, after she was introduced to the use of a specialized computer keyboard, Hannah proved them wrong. "Is there anything you'd like to say, Hannah?" asked Marilyn Chadwick, director of training at the Facilitated Communication Institute at Syracuse University.

With Chadwick helping to stabilize her right wrist and her mother watching, a girl thought to be incapable of learning to read or write slowly typed, "I love Mom."

FC is still alive? I thought this delusion's been blown to smithereens.

The only good evidence thus far has been that FC = facilitator communicating. For instance, it has been shown that "when facilitators are unable to hear the questions, or hear conflicting information, the individual consistently responds incorrectly."

In 1992 a study was conducted by Wheeler, Jacobson, Paglieri and Schwartz where the facilitator and the child were separated by a divider which prevented the former from seeing what the child was being presented with, while still allowing FC to be conducted. The study "revealed no support for FC and suggested a strong facilitator influence on the children's response."

In a 1994 study Smith, Haas, and Belcher found that the child provided the correct responses only if the facilitator had knowledge of what the child was seeing and was fully assisting the child (hand-over-hand assistance with prevention of errors).

And from the findings of a 2001 review by Mostert of previous FC studies it can be said that "when methodologically sound procedures are used, no positive results for the use of FC are found."

"[Facilitated communication] takes the victims and their families for a brief joyride, then they find out that they’ve been conned, swindled, lied to." Given the various confuting evidence against FC who wouldn't be as angry as Randi at the Time article and its opening gambit? Can we really expect that not one parent of autistic children reading the article will get in touch with Syracuse or their friendly neighborhood facilitator?


Raymond G. Romanczyk, Laura Arnstein, Latha V. Soorya, and Jennifer Gillis. "The Myriad of Controversial Treatments for Autism." Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology. Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, and Jeffrey M. Lohr, eds. New York: Guilford Press, 2003. 366-369 .

1 comment:

Bronze Dog said...

FC is still alive? I thought this delusion's been blown to smithereens.

Woo never dies. It just varies in popularity relative to other woo.