Thursday, November 12, 2015

The cult of facilitated communication

The only good emerging from the trial and travails of Anna Stubblefield is the fresh spotlight on the psuedoscience cult of facilitated communication (fc). In Slate, David Auerbach  instructs us on just how cult-y and psuedoscience-y it is, and the dangers it poses to school children and their families.
FC continues in spite of these scandals. Given the long history of sexual abuse allegations and other horror stories, Stubblefield should have known that the ideomotor effect might have been at work. Understanding why she didn’t is a complicated question. Stubblefield was not a single reckless actor who fell prey to romantic irrationality. She was embedded in a pseudoscientific community that has consistently suppressed doubt and boosted the unreliable methodology of FC. Stubblefield did not think she was sexually assaulting D.J. She thought, rather, that she was giving D.J. a voice. This is the core faith of FC, and its central deception and motivation. The community of believers in facilitated communication claim to be letting the disabled speak, when they are actually stealing whatever voices they have.
The “science” of FC not only continues to do damage but is actually gaining ground. It is being used in public schools throughout the country through the infiltration of FC advocates into public positions. FC preys on the hopes of parents and family while taking patients away from reliable and proven treatments that FC proponents deem inferior. Stubblefield may be headed to jail for 10 to 40 years, but those who created her belief system are not only going unpunished but are doing further harm.
In our public education system, FC is making disturbing inroads through the seemingly well-meaning Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation, a $24.5 million disability inclusion program that is the Department of Education’s largest special education grant ever. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the grant in 2012, which allocates money to public schools and nonprofits that support and adopt the SWIFT program. SWIFT is run in significant part by facilitated communication supporters based at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Kansas. Proponents currently play down the term “facilitated communication” in favor of less loaded descriptions like “supported typing,” but the method has not changed. It poses dangers to schoolchildren, schools, parents, and taxpayers.

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