Most people who have closely followed autism over the past twenty years are aware of the facilitation communication controversy. Many however, are not aware that non verbal individuals, who hit the keys independently, but need a partner in close proximity are subject to the same type of influences.
Facilitated communication is a practice where a nonverbal individual, unable to type on his own, is given hand or arm support as he types on a letter board or keyboard. The person giving the support is known as a facilitator. Most supporters of the process contend that physical support provides assistance with movement difficulties and that it may also afford emotional support. They usually claim the information is coming entirely from the person typing. Supporters often say the nonverbal person has been gleaning information from his environment even if he has not been formally taught literacy skills. The Detractors believe that the facilitator is leading the typist, possibly subconsciously.
Many of the students I have worked with easily make the transition form arm or wrist support to hitting the keys on their own, provided I am holding the communication device, have some physical contact, and/or remain in close proximity. Whether I provide arm support or not, my experience has been this: that facilitator influence can and does occur. The children are so sensitive to my thoughts that their messages can be distorted by my tendency to project and anticipate. If I remain blank, it is nearly impossible for me to keep the flow of communication going. It seems even more difficult if the person typing is hitting the keys independently while I am holding the device, than if physical support is provided.
It has been awe inspiring to partner with these incredible souls. However, to not mention a type of “telepathy” as a possible explanation for the phenomena is unethical and most certainly dangerous.
I am frustrated that the relationship between the person typing and the facilitator has not been studied. Researching the basic principles and limitations of the process is necessary to determine what is valid. We need to stop defining the experience of individuals with severe sensory differences in the context of our perceptual reality.
A magnificent phenomenon is occurring; however, I feel the wrong questions have been asked. Concerns have revolved around 'who' the information is emanating from, rather than the 'relationship' that is occurring that allows for the information to be transcribed. How does this relationship occur? What are we to learn from it? Does it help the person with severe autism understand our language system? Does it help us understand their system of direct knowing? Does forming a sympathetic resonance with the facilitator help the person typing calm down his own chaotic flow? Are brainwaves of both parties entrained to the same frequency? Does this synchronization serve as a catalyst for free flowing thought to organize itself for conscious expression? Does this relationship assist in accessing information from the subconscious, the knowledge base of others, and the universal field of thought? Is true independence possible or will some level of partnership remain necessary?
I do believe facilitated communication has many benefits or I would not use it. Most important, the person typing appears to enjoy it. Whether I provide physical support, hold the communication device, or just stay in close proximity to the person who is typing, my students have lead me to believe that it relaxes them. Unconditional love, trust, and expectation of competence may open the channel for this seemingly subconscious blending. A sense balance seems to be created as we move in tandem and establish a rhythm. It is as if disengaged channels are suddenly all on the same wavelength; submerged in free flowing thoughts. We are in flow! My perception is: I am part of them and they are part of me. I am thankful!
Serving as a facilitator/agent/catalyst/partner has expanded the parameters of my consciousness. It has been a remarkable gift. I am hopeful others will step forward to share the entirety of their experiences. A paradigm shift of this magnitude demands it!
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