Monday, August 10, 2009

Facilitated Communication and the Munchausen-By-Proxy Case

According to those who claim to enable autistic people to transmit messages from above via Facilitated Communication, the woman from Meah Shearim accused of abusing her children is innocent. See here and here (scroll down). (Thanks to Rabbi Josh Waxman, in whose home I am typing this, for the reference, and for the hospitality!) I don't know the details of the case in Meah Shearim, but anyone tempted to believe in the validity of Facilitated Communication should read this superb article by Rabbi Dr. Aaron Hirsch Fried, which was, I believe, originally printed in condensed form in HaModia.


  1. I don't really hope to convince anybody, but just for the record - mainstream Facilitated Communication people are at least as unimpressed by the messages-from-above crowd as anybody else, if not more so; we've been begging them for years to change the name of what they're doing to Spiritual Communication so there'll be less confusion, but I suppose when you believe the world will end in October/November/January/March/April/May June/any day now, you'll be sorry there are other things on your mind.

  2. Its so sad that these people feel the need to make disabled people "special" by claiming they can communicate with angels or have special predictive powers.

    I can understand why they do it. A diagnosis of autsim is devastating to parents, and claiming special powers makes it all worth it. The unfortunate implication of that is that the person isn't worth it for themselves.

    The sites you linked to treat "autists" (a term I've never seen before) as seers. Autistic people are many things, but they are not super-powered. Just the oppposite - they suffer from deficits in many areas. Even the famous cases of the autistic-savant are rare, and are more a case of an obsession with a single subject than some special ability.

    Anyone who is so low-functioning as to be non-verbal and therefore require a faciulitator to communicate is probably barely aware that there is a future, let alone able to make predictions about it.

    And of course, facilitated communication has been shown to be the product of well-meaning facilitators with very simple expirements. The facilitator sits in another room out of earshot, and the autistic person is asked a simple question. If the autistic person is the one communicating, he should then be able to answer the question with the facilitator's help. But when the facilitator is brought into the room, the ensuing conversation was never related to the original question.

  3. Baba Basra 12 says: "Since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children."

    And therefore, if a young person is autistic, that must mean he has the gift of prophecy. Simple logic.

    (I hope no one thought I was serious.)

  4. This is the one of the most simple and elegant experimental designs that I ever read:

    The authorship is determined by the fact that the facilitator and the "communicator" see different symbols on their keyboards [i.e. the facilitator sees an "s" where the person supposedly writing the text sees a "w"].

    None of the facilitators were able to pass the test.


    Gary Goldwater

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