My cousin is not a Ouija board.

Facilitated communication is supposed to be a process by which a facilitator helps a non-speaking person speak. It’s often used with autistic children. The facilitator holds the person’s hand and helps them move their finger to the keys on the keyboard so that they can type.

Sound familiar? Facilitated communication is essentially using a human being as a Ouija board. The most disturbing thing is not that facilitators give false hope to parents of nonverbal children, or that they make money by writing books that they claim are written by their patients; it’s that they are taking advantage of people with disabilities and putting words in their mouths that are not theirs. What a way to obscure the fact that these people can’t communicate (or at least can’t be understood). If it’s this easy, it can be done with any nonverbal person! Autistic people, coma patients, people who are, uh, asleep…

The longer this is taken seriously, the less people will pay attention to the real concerns, needs, and rights of people whose disabilities prevent them from communicating.

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3 Comments

  1. ann said,

    5 October 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Report on the current state of special ed for “non-verbal” (not really, ’cause they still think verbally, even if it’s hard to get the words out) “special needs” kids in elementary public school: A voice recorder that a teacher or other “facilitator” records a message into, and then the kid can push a button to play the words back.

    That’s not even making them into a Oija Board. That’s making them into a puppet — a “reverse Pinocchio.”

    • Brenda Shaw said,

      5 October 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Eeee. That’s one I hadn’t heard of. But it’s not news that (a) there aren’t enough teachers to give every kid the attention s/he needs, and (b) sometimes mainstream education latches onto a stupid, useless teaching method and uses it for years.

  2. ann said,

    26 October 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Just thought you’d get a kick out of this:

    Audrey (my aide, who’s also an aide for a “non-verbal” kindergartener), was telling me today was hair-pullingly frustrating with the school’s OT (occupational therapist). That woman wanted to teach the kid to how to communicate with a laser-pointer (Audrey’s idea)* and pictures. And Audrey was trying to get it through this woman’s head that, at five years old, this child is ready to learn his alphabet and how to spell and compose full sentences. That way, he could keep an alphabet board on his wheelchair tray at all times (or the person he’s with could just write the letters on a piece of paper, in a pinch), and spell out what he wants to say whenever he wants to say it, rather than waiting for someone else to fetch the equipment for him…

    And the thought occurred to her: “You know…. We could really freak people out, and just give him an actual Oiuja Board[tm]… it’s got all the letters, and numbers… and Yes and No.”

    Hee!

    * — and not the $200 “special equipment” one, from the professional “adaptive equipment” catalog — the $20 cat toy from PetSmart


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