If you are a person who might have thought “facilitated communication” was too far out, think again. This one will probably make you shake your head in disbelief.
School officials called Colleen Leduc and asked that she go to the school of her daughter Victoria, an 11-year old who has Autism. When she got there, they told Ms. Leduc that they had allegations that Victoria was being sexually abused. Of course, the school officials had performed their legal duty and notified child protective services.
How did they come by such startling knowledge? Leduc was incredulous as they poured out their story.
“The teacher looked and me and said: ‘We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of “V.” And she said ‘yes, I do.’ And she said, ‘well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'”
What’ll folks come up with next?
Of course, you should read the entire story here or here (thanks, Mark), or track the coverage here. Flashes of the electrons to PZ Myers (Pharyngula), Janice Liedl, and BoingBoing.
It’s one of those stories I wish hadn’t transpired. On the basis of evidence gained via facilitated communication, police mistakenly charged a man with abusing his daughter and, to compound the problem, they based their case in part on inappropriate interrogation of the man’s son, a boy who has Asperger Syndrome. Oakland County (M, US) prosecutor David Gorcyca dropped the case when he was unable to substantiate the FC-based allegations.
In an editorial 20 March 2008, the Detroit Free Press summarized the case and the terrible consequences to which the family was subjected because of it:
Continue reading ‘FC, sex, false interrogration–yuck’
In a segment about Autism that aired 18 February, the US television magazine 60 Minutes got some things right but misrepresented some other things. Gina Green, an eminent authority on Autism wrote a letter to 60 Minutes explaining the misrepresentation and encouraging the show’s producers to correct it. Gina generously agreed to let me publish the letter here.
Dear “60 Minutes:”
Having worked with “60 Minutes” producers several years ago on a story on the bogus autism intervention Facilitated Communication, I know that yours is one of the few network news programs that makes an effort to present accurate information based on sound evidence. That was confirmed in the portion of your February 18 segment on autism that featured a scientist who spoke to the lack of objective evidence that there is an “epidemic” of autism. But the portion of that segment that dealt with early intervention was not up to your standards. The discovery that early intensive intervention using the methods of applied behavior analysis can produce normal functioning in a large subset of children with autism was not made recently by the MIND Institute, as your program implied, but by Dr. Ivar Lovaas back in 1987. That finding has been replicated several times by other behavior analysts, as documented in published studies (see the attached reference list). It would be great if “60 Minutes” could do a followup story on that very exciting science and some of the wonderful human success stories that have resulted from it.
Gina Green, PhD, BCBA
Link to the 60 Minute Web site that provides access to some of the show’s contents.
For those who wonder about such things, especially in light of the flaps over (a) facilitated communication (see statement on SpedPro) and (b) the Judge Rotenberg Center (see earlier post on EBD Blog), there are some well-documented procedures for treating Autism. The US National Academy of Sciences has published a monograph detailing these procedures and the evidence supporting them. One can get a copy of the monograph from the National Academy Press site.
Over on SpedPro.org, a couple of my colleage and I have posted a statement expressing dismay about the support offered by Time magazine in two May 2006 issues for Facilitated Communication.
We the undersigned register our dismay about Time magazineâ€™s support of Facilitated Communication in the 10 May 2006 article entitled â€œâ€˜Helpingâ€™ Autistic People to Speakâ€ and 15 May issue entitled â€œInside the Autistic Mindâ€ by Claudia Wallis. Time might as well have endorsed cold fusion or phlogiston as give Facilitated Communication a favorable review.
Link to the statement.
Some of our favored ideas in education are supported by virtually no reliable data. Learning styles and multiple intelligences are among them, and I imagine you’ll find those ideas debunked in special education blogs related to this one.
An edited book, just published, challenges us to think carefully about some popular ideas and interventions. The book is Controversial Therapies for Developmental Disabilities: Fad, Fashion, and Science in Professional Practice, edited by the late John W. Jacobson, Richard M. Foxx, and James A. Mulick (and published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005). I am a great admirer of this book, not merely because I co-authored a chapter in it on the topic of full inclusion but because I believe it offers us a serious challenge to think about why we believe what we do. Along with another excellent volume, Clear Thinking with Psychology: Separating Sense from Nonsense (by John Ruscio, published in 2002 by Wadsworth), it urges us to be skeptics about popular notions in psychology and education.
The Jacobson, Foxx, and Mulick book contains chapters on the following intervention-specific issues:
- Person-Centered Planning (by J. Grayson Osborne)
- Sensory Integrative Therapy (by Tristram Smith, Daniel W. Mruzek, & Dennis Mozingo)
- Auditory Integration Training (by Oliver C. Mudford & Chris Cullen)
- Facilitated Communication (by John W. Jacobson, Richard M. Foxx, & James A. Mulick)
- Positive Behavior Support (James A. Mulick & Eric Butter)
- Nonaversive Treatment (by Crighton Newsom & Kimberly A. Kroeger)
- Gentle Teaching (by Chris Cullen & Oliver C. Mudford)
I didn’t give you the subtitles of the chapters, some of which you may see as pointedly uncomplimentary, particularly if you are fond of the intervention about which the authors are writing.
One intervention that is particularly popular just now, and one for which we might find even a legislative foundation, is Positive Behavior Support, often known as PBS (and not to be confused with public broadcasting). I’ve got to admit that some of my colleagues in special education–people I like a lot and whose work I admire–are quite taken with the practice of PBS. But is it (a) a new idea or concept and (b) a practice supported by scientific evidence?
PBS is important for all of special education, but particularly for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. I’ll address the “new” and “scientific” issues regarding PBS in a future post by summarizing the points made by Mulick and Butter in their chapter. I’ll also have some things to say about punishment and nonaversive interventions.