A recent eye-tracking study fails to reveal agency in assisted autistic communication

One year ago, Vikram Jaswal et al published a study claiming to find empirical support for a method of facilitated communication known as Spelling to Communicate.1

Finally, a critique of it has been published. You’ll find it in here, in Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention.

In the year since its publication, Jaswal’s study has been leapt on by FC supporters around the country. Despite its many flaws, it has been cited as definitive evidence that the messages typed out by non-verbal “spellers” are authored by them and not by their facilitators. Citations of Jaswal et al appear on the websites of organizations like the International Association for Spelling as Communication, United for Communication Choice, and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation. And both of the two recent FC miracle cure books, J.B. Handley’s Underestimated: An Autism Miracle, and Valerie Gilpeer’s I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust, cite the study as definitive.

Some, including J.B. Handley, make the egregious error of claiming that the study was published in the prestigious journal Nature, when it was actually published in a pay-to-publish subsidiary of Nature.com known as Scientific Reports.

I’m happy to say that Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, unlike Scientific Reports, is both evidence-based and scientific, and that one doesn’t need to pay to publish there.

1. In Spelling to Communicate, also known as S2C and Supported Typing, and originally derived from Rapid Prompting, the facilitation occurs through a held-up letterboard or keyboard, and/or through prompts from a person sitting or standing next to the typer. The typer moves their index finger around the keyboard until it lands on the desired letter, slowly spelling out messages.

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