FC propaganda and censorship on WHYY TV

(A version of this post was published earlier today at FacilitatedCommunication.org).

It isn’t exactly headline news when trusted, mainstream media publishes a feel-good story about facilitated communication—as outlets ranging from the New York Times to the Washington Post, and from CBS to PBS, have been doing for years. But it’s always a bit of a shock when it’s your local public broadcaster.

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Autism: the “genius” locked inside

The earliest toxic misconception of autism was Bruno Bettelheim’s psychegentic one: that well-educated parents who worried that their children were not developing normally would metaphorically reject them. The result was what Bettelheim called an “empty fortress”–an interior mental space in which these children took shelter from this parental rejection. These children were normal at birth and continued to be normal inside, but now it took psychoanalysis to unlock them. They were taken away from their parents and put in the hands of “specialists.” The cure rate was… questionable.

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The word processing revolution: a boon or a bane for writing quality?

I was discussing the writing process with a friend the other day, a former New York Times journalist. I quoted Fran Lebowitz from the documentary Public Speaking: she hates writing. People hate, she proposes, what they do well. My friend countered that nowadays that he finds the entire process enjoyable. Perhaps, he proposed, it’s the 10,000 hours of practice. I replied that I enjoy the first step–the brainstorming–but often find the next step–organizing and formulating what I’ve brainstormed till everything seems clearly articulated and connected–painfully challenging. 

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What happens when the SAT goes digital?

The SAT is changing yet again. It’s going digital, and, allegedly as a consequence of going digital, the reading passages will be shortened, with only one question per passage.

“We still want students to have rich texts that they need to read, understand, analyze and answer questions about,” says Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of college readiness assessments at the College Board, “But these walls of texts were not going to work on a digital device.” 

Walls of texts don’t work on digital devices? Does the College Board imagine that students will take the SAT on their iPhones?

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Review of A Passion to Believe

(Cross-posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org).

Among the dozen or so facilitated communication books published in the last two decades, most of them miracle memoirs written by true believers, one book stands out. Originally published in 1997 by Westview Press, but re-published in 2018 by Routledge, Diane Twachtman-Cullen’s A Passion to Believe: Autism and the Facilitated Communication Phenomenon is a unique and highly disturbing insider account of the original version of FC: the touch-based (wrist-supporting/arm-holding) version that dates back, more or less unchanged, to the 1990s.

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Autism diaries: how much we forget…

I had thought that this April Fool’s Day J had limited himself to just one joke: a text message telling us he’d just been expelled from college. For about 5 seconds my heart raced, and then I remembered the date.

It was only several days later that we noticed that our living room chandelier switch had stopped working. We couldn’t figure out the problem. We even had a contractor, who happened to be in our house for a different reason, take a look at the switch. He took it apart and concluded it must be a “bad switch.”

So revisiting this Out in Left Field post from 2013, just now, has turned out to be very useful. Apparently 9 years is enough time for us to completely forget about the last time this happened.

Empathy in autism: it’s complicated

One of the straw-man claims made by proponents of Facilitated Communication is that the rest of the world believes, falsely, that autistic people have no empathy. The same straw-man claim has been made by self-styled “neurodiversity” advocates and by “disability rights” advocates–especially those who espouse the social model of disability to the exclusion of the medical model of disability.

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Deconstructing an interview with Vikram Jaswal

(Cross posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org).

In this week’s post I focus on an interview published two weeks ago by Shannon Rosa, of the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, with Vikram Jaswal, a University of Virginia psychology professor. In the world of facilitated communication (FC), Jaswal is best known for two things: (1) his collaboration with Elizabeth Vosseller, credited with inventing of a variant of FC called “Spelling to Communicate” (S2C, akin to the Rapid Prompting Method, aka RPM), and (2) his publication in Scientific Reports of a study that used eye-tracking equipment to detect evidence that purportedly showed that S2C is a legitimate means of communication. (A critique of that study is here).

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Chance is a great equalizer, but sometimes there are better options

With a wave of its regulatory wand, the Philadelphia School District, as per an article in this week’s Philadelphia Inquirer, has drastically increased the percentages of underrepresented minorities who qualify for Philadelphia’s “selective admissions” high schools. Here’s what’s changed:

(1) Students from six zip codes that were traditionally underrepresented have been “given preference” at five of the top high schools.

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Deep Thoughts via facilitated communication vs. moderate autism

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years examining messages that have been extracted via facilitated communication from minimally-speaking individuals with autism, who are generally diagnosed as severely autistic.

Here’s an example from a recent study (critiqued here) involving minimally-speaking individuals. (These individuals are also called “unreliably speaking”, as their spoken language is often at odds with what they type via FC, as we see here). 

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