Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stubblefield testifies

Anna Stubblefield took the stand in her own defense yesterday:
... on the witness stand Wednesday at her trial on charges of sexually assaulting D.J., Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield said he was able to express himself through a controversial technique, known as "facilitated communication."
With Stubblefield's left hand under his elbow and her right hand on his right hand, Stubblefield claimed D.J. was able to communicate by typing on a keyboard.
At first, D.J. provided one- or two-word answers to her questions, but as his literacy improved, he was able to participate in conversations with her and others, according to Stubblefield. Through the typing method, D.J. also wrote papers that were presented at conferences, Stubblefield said.
Stubblefield said she wasn't getting paid for working with D.J., but after seeing her mother assist other individuals through facilitated communication, she wanted to do the same for D.J.
"I'd grown up watching my mother help people get access to communication what their actual intellectual potential was," she said. "I wanted to be helpful."
It turns out that Stubblefield's mother was a pioneer in facilitated communication in the US.
 Stubblefield said she was first introduced to the technique through her mother, a professor emeritus of special education at Eastern Michigan University and a licensed psychologist, who was one of the first people to be trained in the method after its introduction in the United States in 1990.
Stubblefield said she assisted her mother in communication sessions, and later interacted with users of the method. In 2008, Stubblefield said she received training as a facilitator at Syracuse University in order to support her friends who were users.
Whether facilitated communication is discredited, as the preponderance of evidence shows, or legitimate is a key issue in this trial. The judge has already ruled it is not recognized science---more of a sociological assessment than an epistemological one.
 Superior Court Judge Siobhan Teare barred expert testimony on the technique, because she determined it is "not a recognized science." The judge also warned Stubblefield to not take on an expert's perspective in her testimony about the technique.
Critics have claimed the method is ineffective, saying studies have shown the facilitators are controlling the users' movements. Several scientific organizations have declared the technique is invalid.
During her testimony on Wednesday, Stubblefield acknowledged that controversy. She said nine studies conducted in the United States in the early 1990s determined the method was invalid and that facilitators were influencing the users' responses.
But Stubblefield claimed 12 new studies between 1995 and about 2010 were performed that involved experienced users and facilitators and showed the method to be "a valid communication technique."
Soon after Stubblefield made that remark, Teare instructed the jury that no one could be qualified as an expert in facilitated communication under the state's court rules, because the method "has not met the standard required as a recognized field of science."
Stubblefield's testimony continues today.

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