Response to a pro-FC speech-language pathologist

It’s alarming enough to see speech-language pathologists (SLPs) expressing support for discredited schemes like Spelling to Communicate (S2C) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) that have been denounced by their own leading professional organization (ASHA). But when SLPs actually become S2C/RPM practitioners, it’s truly disheartening.

I just posted a response to one such SLP here, but thought this was worth a post of its own.

Thank you for your comment. I believe that you are sincere when you share your belief that “All of the criticisms in this article have an explanation that is addressed in the S2C course”. However, most people aren’t going to be signing up for a course just to learn what those arguments are. Nor are they going to be convinced by a simple assertion that these arguments exist. So I invite you to post these arguments here and indicate which of the above criticism you think they address.

As for 100% certainty, the only route to that is rigorous message-passing testing. And yet not a single S2C facilitator has been willing to participate in a public, publishable test that would unequivocally establish who is authoring the messages. That should raise serious red flags.

Regarding cognition in non-verbal individuals, it’s important to recognize that cognition has both verbal and non-verbal components. Non-verbal individuals are well known to often have intact non-verbal cognition: jigsaw puzzles are a common area of strength; we also find non-verbal individuals with extraordinary skills in complex arithmetic and feats of memory. Ravens Matrices are a standard way to eliminate language as a factor in intelligence testing, and should absolutely be included in assessments of non-verbal individuals.

The reason that “Global Apraxia (disconnect between the brain and all body parts) seems difficult for some to accept” is because no solid, empirical, peer-reviewed research has established that such a phenomenon (1) overlaps substantially with non-speaking autism; (2) explains the observed behavior patterns in autism; and/or (3) justifies facilitators/“assistants” holding up letterboards for individuals with autism and prompting them to type out letters with their index fingers. Nor does any of this eliminate known issues with facilitator cueing and influence. I invite you to visit FacilitatedCommunication.org, which contains a comprehensive repository of FC-related research and critical commentary, including on the various claims that FC proponents have made about global apraxia and other alleged movement/motor disorders in autism.

With your SLP credentials, I’m sure you are aware that your leading professional organization, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, has a position statement against Rapid Prompting/Spelling to Communicate:

“It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that use of the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is not recommended because of prompt dependency and the lack of scientific validity.” 

“Although RPM or Soma®RPM is primarily associated with HALO-Soma and Soma Mukhopadhyay, foundationally and procedurally similar alternative forms have appeared, such as “Informative Pointing” (Iversen, 2007), “letterboarding,” and “Spelling to Communicate,” and this position statement is applicable regardless of the name used for the technique.”

This should raise serious concerns, including the concerns you yourself raise about “discrediting voices and keeping others from ever getting the chance to express their thoughts.”

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