What is Facilitated Communication?

 

"It's not easy, firstly because FC is something that has evolved piecemeal, at different times, in different countries, and in different ways; secondly because even now, more than twenty five years since it first came to prominence, it is still evolving; and finally, because finding the right words to define FC is almost impossible. But here goes!

Essentially, it is a ludicrously simple technique which provides slight hand/wrist support (gradually fading to the merest touch on the shoulder and eventually to no support at all) to non-speaking people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, severe autism, Rett and Down's Syndrome, to enable them to point at pictures, words or letters, in order to make themselves understood. It is a technique born of the recognition that for some reason - whether psychological, psychic, neuro-motor, or other - many such people are unable to initiate the physical movements needed for pointing and identifying. Since they had never been able to express themselves, it had always been taken for granted that they were incapable of doing so. Facilitated Communication aimed to change that perception."

Extract from 'Voices from Silence'

 
 

Facilitated Communication (FC) is a topic that tends to raise extreme reactions. For many of the parents who have found a way to communicate with their children for the first time it is to be celebrated and promoted. For professionals who want to use only best and evidence-based practice it is unfounded and dangerous. You tend to have to be either a ‘believer’ or a ‘denouncer’. However even among those who practice FC there is disagreement and suspicion. Practitioners struggling to provide evidence of ways in which FC ‘works’ disapprove of those who take a more extreme line. So what is remarkable about Mary’s book, as well as being a thoroughly good read, is that she is able to steer a path between all these people and approaches to get at what is really important – that there is more that can be done to improve the lives of people with communication impairment.

It is unlikely that there will ever be a specific point where FC with be ‘accepted’ by mainstream practice. I think it is more likely that the mainstream will gradually change to include all the best aspects of FC. There are already signs of this in writing about autism related to the use of augmentative and alternative means of communication (AAC). In the future the long-ranging controversy about FC will die down and Mary’s book will remain as an important record of the beginnings of change in the field and the work of those who have put their beliefs on the line, to be met with constant opprobrium.

Voice from Silence takes the reader to many countries, to meet people whose life’s work is to attempt to improve the quality of life of the most disabled of our world. It is a book about philosophy, science, belief, hope and struggle to make one’s voice known and heard.

Statement from Anne Emerson,
Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University

 

 

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