Facilitated Communication is an alleged method of allowing those who are otherwise incapable of speech or other forms of communication to express themselves. It is usually targeted at children with severe autism or people who have suffered brain damage. Often it consists of a “Facilitator” who guides the arm/hand of the person who wants to communicate over a keyboard or picture/letter board. Using this technique it is claimed that the subject’s hidden capacity for communication is revealed and that despite outward appearances they have a high degree of intelligence and a rich internal life.

While this gives great hope and joy to the family of such individuals there is strong evidence to show that in many cases the resulting messages come, unintentionally, from the facilitators themselves. When controlled studies are performed where the facilitator cannot see what the subject is seeing, is unaware of information or even given false information, the answers to questions put to the subject become inaccurate. This is not to say that there are not people that can be helped by an alternative method of communication and such methods exist, for example: augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), in this the subject uses external devices independently and so there is no question that they are the source of the answers received.

This phenomenon shows that when someone desperately wants something to be true, that is when we should demand the most evidence.

Resources

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1279809

http://skepdic.com/facilcom.html

http://www.apa.org/about/division/cpmscientific.html#4

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/autism.html

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