A Passion to Believe: Autism and the Facilitated Communication Phenomenon

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Westview Press, 1997 - Psychology - 208 pages
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“While the main purpose of this book is to report on my research, ultimately this book is about more than facilitated communication. It is about what I have come to call the FC culture—that sociopolitical phenomenon in which unanimity of thought and philosophy has created a class of believers whose ‘sacred’ mission is not only to advance the cause of facilitated communication but also to disparage the opposition. It is also about the far-reaching effects that occur when common practice disassociates itself from common sense and when ethics and responsibility fall victim to a passion to believe.”Thus begins A Passion to Believe, Diane Twachtman-Cullen’s critical assessment of facilitated communication. Employed as a technique for drawing out the so-called hidden language of nonverbal or expressively limited (typically autistic) individuals, FC has been highly controversial in the United States since its introduction in 1991. Proponents claim the technique frees even profoundly impaired clients of the constraints of disability and allows them to communicate effectively for the first time with their families and caregivers. Scientific experts disagree, citing contradictions between these claims and scientific evidence of the true nature of autism. Resistant to validation by scientific scrutiny and yet quick to introduce facilitated messages as evidence in courtroom claims of abuse by caregivers, FC advocates have generated a polarized debate in the disability community.In her investigation, Twachtman-Cullen plays by the rules of the FC community, employing meticulously documented qualitative, rather than quantitative, research methods to study facilitators and their clients at work. Through her participant observation and assessment, and using actual case studies and transcripts of FC sessions, she confirms the mounting evidence that results obtained through FC are insupportable. In her detailed portraits, heartbreaking scenarios emerge of fervent facilitators and frustrated clients. Moreover, she demonstrates the harm that FC can inflict when unconscious facilitator influence distorts the intentions of the client, creates false hope in families, and leads to false charges of abuse and neglect by caregivers. Her findings will be of interest to anyone concerned with the care of the disabled as well as those interested in the psychology of belief and the struggle between science and pseudoscience.

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Part Three
If I Hadnt Believed It I Wouldnt Have Seen It

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About the author (1997)

Diane Twachtman-Cullen is executive director of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Consultation Center in Cromwell, Connecticut. She is a licensed speech-language pathologist and a communication disorders specialist.

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