Author: Patty Morin Fitzgerald

Augmentative and alternative communication: A new generation of tools for autism

With initial help from her mother, Kailee West, 6, quickly masters the basics of Puddingstone Place, an interactive virtual environment that helps children with autism develop language skills.
With initial help from her mother, Kailee West, 6, quickly masters the basics of Puddingstone Place, an interactive virtual environment that helps children with autism develop language skills.

In the 1990s, Facilitated Communication (FC), in which assistants “facilitate” the typing of thoughts by minimally verbal children by supporting their hands, began raising hopes in the autism community. The unproven procedure caught fire, and Syracuse University established a nationally recognized Facilitated Communication Institute.

Upon closer examination, though, doubts emerged. The messages were surprisingly sophisticated and written by children who often were not even looking at the keyboard. Critics charged that the words were actually those of the facilitator rather than the patient. Studies and organizations began discrediting FC.

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