Facilitated Communication is Hokum

A former South African National now living in the United States has been awarded compensation to the equivalent of R15 million. Julian Wendrow and his wife Tali were arrested and charged when a Facilitator named Cynthia Scarsella holding their daughter’s hand got her to type out a false accusation of rape.
The scenario described above, when a Facilitator guides the hands of a disabled individual to help him or her type out messages on a keyboard, is known as “Facilitated Communication“. It is viewed as invalid by many organisations. In most cases when controlled studies were done, it was shown that it was in fact the Facilitator doing the communicating, not the patient. One test involved a television screen with a divider so that the Facilitator could only see one half of the screen and the patient the other half. Then images were projected onto the screen and the patient was asked to type what he or she. Sometimes both Facilitator and patient were shown the same images, sometimes they differed. In every case where the image differed, the patient “typed” what the Facilitator saw.
When Aislinn was physically examined, no evidence of sexual abuse was found. Despite this, a zealous prosecutor eager for glory proceeded to trial. The case collapsed when a judge ordered Scarsella to leave the courtroom, then asked Aislinn a question. When Scarsella returned, she could not get Aislinn to answer the question correctly. Aislinn typed gibberish. Scarsella was then ordered out of the courtroom again and another question was posed. Once again, Scarsella could not get Aislinn to answer correctly. With the “accusation” discredited, the only evidence against the Wendrows was gone.
Perhaps the biggest irony in the entire case was that Julian Wendrow was the one to request Facilitated Communication. Scarsella had just two hours of training in the technique. That the situation should have come to this is a travesty.


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I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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1 Response to Facilitated Communication is Hokum

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