On Wednesday, Howard Shane, a speech pathologist at Boston Children's Hospital, testified about his communication assessment of D.J., which he conducted in 2012 on behalf of the prosecutors.
Shane said D.J. can communicate physically – such as moving himself towards a refrigerator when he's hungry – and his communication depends on the interpretation of those who know him.
But D.J. has no understanding of any symbols, such as pictures and written words, Shane said.This seems quite damning in a case whose defense requires belief that DJ could use the assistance of a facilitator's hand to spell out words.
When Shane asked D.J. to grab specific items, he wasn't able to do so, according to Shane. D.J. was not able to identify letters and he could not spell, Shane said.
Shane also indicated D.J. does not have the intellectual capacity to utilize a communication device.The defense tried to push back on this issue.
"I found that he was extraordinarily communication-impaired," Shane testified.
On cross-examination, Stubblefield's attorney, James Patton, questioned Shane about D.J.'s positioning during the three-hour evaluation. Shane said D.J. was sitting in a chair and occasionally leaned against his brother for support.
Patton asked whether D.J. did not have enough support in the chair and whether any efforts were made to stabilize him. Shane said such efforts were not necessary and that D.J. was able to use his hands while sitting in the chair.
Patton also questioned Shane about whether he knew, at the time of the evaluation, that Stubblefield had written an article that was critical of a position he had taken. Shane said he wasn't sure if he was aware of the article at that time.
Shane has been a longtime critic of facilitated communication and has conducted tests that purportedly show the facilitators were controlling the users' messages. He did not address those studies during his testimony.
Patton's question referred to an article Stubblefield published in 2011 in a journal called Disability Studies Quarterly. In that article, Stubblefield mentioned Shane specifically and wrote that those who criticized facilitated communication were practicing "hate speech."