How to spot pseudoscientific practices of Facilitated Communication, Rapid Prompting Method and Spelling2Communicate in highly edited documercials:
1) The vocabulary used by the proponents of these systems and in the propaganda often differs from that used in the AAC field in that they like use “type”, “typer”, “spell”, “speller”, “board”, “letter board”, “stencil”, “keyboard” instead of AAC, AAC user/AAC device/system. AAC users, of course, get to self-define and chose how they wish to be referred to, I am not talking about that, I am talking about the speaking people who are trying to sell these programs.
2) There are never any long camera shots showing the individual typing, instead there are short edited bursts of filming, with the camera focused on the hands
3) There aren’t full body shots showing the individual in the center of the frame communicating without someone touching them
4) The keyboards/letter boards/stencils/ipads are held aloft by someone other than the individual. They often move about as they are held in midair. Sometimes you can clearly see the board movement anticipating the next letter or the individuals hand/finger staying still as the board moves under it (try drawing a box around them in editing software or dry erase marker to check)
5) The individual is never given any personal space/bodily autonomy when they are using their keyboard/letterboard/stencil/ipad
6) Someone is holding the individuals hand/arm/shoulder/shirt or other part of their body as they “spell”
7) The individual may not look at their target, even peripherally, while they touch it (or aim to touch it). It is actually next to impossible to hit a letter on a board held aloft if you don’t look (if an AAC system is still and static and the user is experienced at it they might be able “touch type” without looking but usually that isn’t the case in the propaganda videos). Try it. You can ‘touch type” without looking on an unstable keyboard.
8) The individual often has their wrist limp and their finger dangling, it is very difficult to type like this or they sort of repeatedly peck their arm/hand without much aiming, try it out on a still keyboard and one held aloft, it’s very hard.
9) The individual rarely, if ever, has had any literacy/grammar instruction. Usually they went from severe educational neglect to spelling and writing in full sentences immediately (note: some 6-14% of autistics are hyperlexic so this alone isn’t telling, but S2C and other programs insist all autistic don’t need quality literacy instruction, this is a blatant lie, look into Science of Reading), there maybe excessively poetic language even for simple yes/no questions.
10) The “facilitator” doesn’t confirm letter by letter or word by word or even at all, as is recommended, they also don’t need to write down what letters are touched to understand, often despite the “speller” not using capitalization, using spaces or punctuation. Try it, it is really hard to decode something letter by letter in this way, especially quickly. (On a personal note my sister had a brain injury later in life and used an AAC book. When she spelled she would get so frustrated with how hard I found it to decode as she pointed that she would spell dyslexic backwards - which I didn’t know was what she was doing for years!)
Some other serious concerns about autonomy include that facilitators/helpers ignoring multi-modal communication of wanting a break, to move, to stop etc. Often times, especially in RPM and S2C, ABA based compliance training techniques are used such as restricting movement, timers to force sitting while they are “spelling”, and other means to force the individual to use only condoned means of “communicating”. Rarely do you see the individual demsontrating high regard of or ownership of their board/ipad.
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