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Facilitated Communication and Autism Ranking: Mildly Hazardous Limited negative evidence

Facilitated communicationFacilitated communication (also known as supported typing) is a form of augmentative and alternative communication in which someone physically supports another person and helps them to point at pictures or words.

Facilitated communication is based on the idea that many of the difficulties faced by communication disabled people (including some autistic people) are due to movement difficulties rather than to social or communication difficulties.

The communication partner (usually called the facilitator) physically supports the other person (usually called the aid user) so that they can point to pictures, symbols, letters and/or words using a computer keyboard or letter/picturebooks. By doing this, the aid user can demonstrate what they want to communicate.

Aid users often use facilitated communication as part of a total communication approach. For example, they may use it in combination with other methods of communication such as speech or sign language.

Please note

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) made the following recommendations: "Do not provide facilitated communication for adults with autism". (NICE, 2012)

The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) stated that “ISAAC does not support FC as a valid form of AAC, a valid means for people to access AAC, or a valid means to communicate important life decisions. The weight of evidence does not support FC and therefore it cannot be recommended for use in clinical practice”. (ISAAC, 2014)

Our Opinion

There is a significant amount of research evidence to suggest that facilitated communication provides no benefits for individuals on the autism spectrum. All of the high quality evidence indicates that any communication is created by the facilitator, not the aid user.

There is also evidence that facilitated communication can, in a few cases, lead to significant harm. For example, there have been occasions when unsubstantiated claims of sexual abuse against family members have been made by the people facilitating the communication.

For these reasons we do not believe that it is an appropriate intervention for people on the autism spectrum. We also believe that there is no reason to carry out further studies into its use.

Disclaimer

Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions


Updated
31 Oct 2017
Last Review
01 May 2017
Next Review
01 May 2020