2014-10-10 - 5:24 p.m.
A video showed up in my facebook feed which was lovely, created by a group of speech therapists I believe, that highlighted the work of a group of Autistic students here in Northern Va who worked on using what appeared to me to be a variation of what they used to call facilitated communication. That methodology I am SURE organically has been used by MANY who loved, lived with or worked with autistic individuals, but it was in the late 1980s, early 1990s that an SU education professor coined that term "facilitated communication" in association with the work they were doing at SU assisting autistic individuals with typing by providing some level of first motor control, and then decreased physical prompting as the autistic individual developed needed motor control to be able to type.
I was so very surprised that at the time this resulted in controversy! I first heard of the controversy AFTER having naturally tried to use physical prompts with the boy I call Colin here. It worked incredibly well and he was just overjoyed to type simple responses to questions I posed in the morning. To me it was a natural extension of having Brian point to pictures to indicate his preferences to give him the support of his wrist and ask the simple question "Today do you want to go to the library or the gym in the morning?"
I simply gave Colin control over his schedule, something he never had before AND actual choices in how to spend his day.
It wasn't really rocket science to understand that if a person has an ability to make decisions of how to spend THEIR time, that person may in fact become HAPPIER.
To me, the small shift in how his day was planned should not have been controversial, but I was naïve to the debate in acadamia and the "professional" word of medical and other care for those with disabilities that the concept of "facilitive communication" had created.
Due to my naivity, we progressed further in the classroom I was a teacher assistant in with the use of means of "facilitating" communication with all the members of that class.
I had no idea how BRAVE and bold the teacher I worked with had been when she supported my creative ideas.
I had no idea that is would be controversial to give a pen and paper to the one student and allow him time to write stories, while assisting another with motor control as he typed, and another with pointing to pictures he could arrange in planning his day to choose what activities would be done as he liked.
To me, all three of those actions were "facilitating" communication based on the ability and motor control and language understanding of each of the three unique individuals.
Its almost twenty five years later now.
So when I saw a post on FB of these students here in Northern VA who use a method called "Rapid Prompting Method (RPM)" which to me looked a lot like so called "facilitated communication" I was happy thinking perhaps the nonsense of NOT BELIEVING that anyone with autistic could have understanding and capacity to communicate was finally debunked!
The skepticism and lack of BELIEF that those with a communication disorder could actually be Intelligent and learn to communicate just shocked me twenty-five years ago, and I thought perhaps we have reached a point where the skeptics have been convinced.
Sadly it seems, skeptics will always be with us. There are still more hits on google that turn up the CONTROVERSY as the first response than those who embrace and celebrate communication by those with autism using these methods.
But thankfully, those who have faith, even in things not yet proved by science, will ALSO always able to be found.
After reading a bit, here is one site I enjoyed addressing this topic:
The thing that is most important is that one NOT allow ANYONE To let them Question THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE. That is what baffles me most of all. How ANYONE who has WATCHED this in action could EVER allow anyone ELSE to shake their confidence that what they witnessed and experienced was valuable and REAL.
That was what amazed me most of all, that I was asked to STOP doing what I was doing.
While it saddens me that there actually still is any controversy whatsoever, I am happy to know there are some brave enough to NOT CARE what others think who continue to do their best work every day with the autistic individuals they serve.
Because really, when it comes down to it, WHO CARES what the world thinks?
In my work I really only cared what Colin thought.