Friday, May 25, 2007

The Risks of Incorrect Assumptions in Facilitated Communication

Here are, in my opinion, the risks of incorrectly dismissing FC and of incorrectly accepting FC, for the disabled person and their family.
Incorrectly Dismissing FC:
From the perspective of the disabled person, they would get a method of communication only to have it taken away or ignored. Their attempts to communicate are thwarted, causing unhappiness, and their caregivers continue to do things to them that they don't want them to, or not do things the person wants.
From the perspective of their family, the consequences are less serious, but they are likely to have more difficulty interacting with and understanding the person. The disabled person may use bad behavior to communicate, which adversely affects the family. Also, they do not have the opportunity to truly get to know their child.
Incorrectly Accepting FC:
For the individual, the consequences depend on whether they know this represents communication. If they do not, it may be an enjoyable game, or it may be unpleasant and frustrating. If they know it is communication and that they're not typing what they really think, it's likely to be quite unpleasant. Either way, they may also suffer from wrong decisions made about their life based on what they supposedly are communicating. Other methods of communication may be stopped or not tried because the person is thought to be already communicating sufficiently.
For the family, they are barred from truly getting to know their child. If the person reacts to not communicating or to incorrect decisions made based on FC with bad behavior, they also suffer as a result.
In cases where the FC user has made an allegation of sexual abuse, the consequences for them are much more severe. They could be left to suffer further abuse despite their seeking help or taken away from good parents. If the allegation is true, the abuser benefits if they are ignored and suffers justly if they are listened to, whereas if the allegation is false, the alleged abuser suffers somewhat either way, but more so if they are listened to. The worst outcome is to allow real abuse to continue, so the abuse allegation must not be dismissed too easily. However, it harms both the family nor the individual if a false allegation is believed, so the situation should be carefully examined.
Some ways to minimise potential harm:
  • continue to work on developing other methods of communication
  • work towards reduced facilitation, as long as legibility does not suffer to the degree that they can't be understood
  • do not make assumptions either of competence or inability (especially inability) - observe closely, they may show signs of understanding that are easy to miss.
  • don't try to prove your assumptions, instead be open to possibilities
  • use multiple facilitators, if possible, and look for confirmation and contradiction of communication
  • do not assume that FC is an either/or thing - in many cases, there may be both facilitator influence and true communication, sometimes in the same message.


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