Rapid Prompting, Facilitated Communication and AAC

Some of the most popular, continuously read posts on Countering have to do with rapid prompting, fc, and AAC.

I am all for giving our nonverbal children AAC devices and teaching them to use them to communicate. I think it's vitally important that all children and adults with speech/communication issues have an effective, independent way to communicate their thoughts, wants, needs. While FC and rapid prompting continue to make inroads into the autistic community, with several of the Autism Blogs Directory bloggers supporting these two methods, I think (I hope) these methods remain on the fringes, or if used, truly do lead to independent communication for the individuals using these methods.

The problem is that there's no way to know for sure--to know that the words credited actually belong to the individuals who have won acclaim and some fame from their going from nonverbal/noncommunicative to writing incredible insightful pieces (I don't believe that nonverbal means noncommunicative but that many people view the two as mutually INclusive).

I hate to consider the possibility that vulnerable individuals are being exploited, that the words credited, the thoughts and emotions and experiences belonging to these incredible individuals were instead the manufacturing of the people who facilitated.

I don't think that parents, and truthfully, even educators, who move into the murky waters of FC and rapid prompting are bad people, or stupid, or duplicitous. I think they are dedicated, loving and caring people who want badly to help those who are nonverbal find their voice, and in that mindset are willing to believe in miracles and so forget to be skeptical of the methods that promise such cures.

So when nonverbal individuals write a book and it's clear that in the past FC was used, I don't know what to think. I can take it on faith that the words are genuinely theirs and reflect their interior reality. My concern, though, is that if I do that, and those words aren't theirs, I've done them a disservice. I've participated in an exploitation.

I don't have a hard, fast answer as to how to handle those situations. I don't know whether to discount those words or embrace them. I think it is, on the whole, easier to embrace and believe in the genuine communication.

But then I think of those individuals who use AAC to communicate, whose parents and educators have not embraced Biklen's method, and the openness with which they show their children communicating and I think that FC and other methods that are similar and involve the manipulation of AAC devices to generate spectacular leaps in functioning seriously hurt those who work so hard to communicate independently.

After nearly four years of looking at the evidence from studies, reading the blogs that offer testimonials to the efficacy of these methods, and the blogs of individuals facilitated, I am no closer to figuring out how to show my respect for the individuals involved while maintaining my skepticism of the methods and my concern that vulnerable individuals not be exploited or denied the interventions that would allow them to communicate independently without the murkiness of FC and RPM casting doubt on that communication.

In a comment I wrote on the rapid prompting piece, I said,

Our children deserve our respect, our acceptance, and our unwavering commitment that in our search to help them achieve their potential we will protect them from harm and that means harm from the people who promise us to help us reach them.

I think that sums up where I am today, as well. We owe not just our children, not just this generation of children, this kind of conviction. We also owe it to future generations. Our actions ripple out beyond our own families and communities, beyond just this time frame. They matter--those who are vulnerable. We owe them our best. 

1 comment:

Bright Side of Life said...

I have a pre-verbal teen (he used to be non verbal, however, this year he has started to sound out words!!). I just can't get my head around FC, especially after a personal friend told me that her son (non verbal and using FC) gave her his views on abortion!!!!! My son uses a variety of AAC devices, however, he is never prompted in any way... it is up to him how he communicates!