Facilitated Communication and Autism Ranking: Mildly Hazardous Limited negative evidence

Current Research

We have identified more than 50 studies of facilitated communication for people on the autism spectrum which have been published in English-language, peer-reviewed journals.

These studies included more than 500 aid users aged from 3 years old to adult, some of whom had significant learning disabilities. The facilitators included teachers, researchers, other professionals and family members. The facilitation took place in a range of settings including the classroom, clinic and/or family home.

The majority of the studies investigated facilitated communication as a standalone technique. A small number of the studies compared facilitated communication to other interventions, such as PECS:

  • The majority (more than two thirds) of the studies reported that facilitated communication was ineffective, that is, it was demonstrated that it was the facilitator creating the communication, not the aid user
  • A minority (less than one third) of the studies reported that facilitated communication enabled the aid users to communicate more effectively. However most of these studies were of very low scientific quality.
  • A small number of studies reported that, where facilitated communication was compared with another form of augmentative and assistive communication (such as PECS), facilitated communication was ineffective but the other intervention was effective.
  • A small number of studies reported adverse effects when using facilitated communication. For example, Bebko and Perry (1996) reported that the participants became more passive communicators when facilitated communication was used.
31 Oct 2017
Last Review
01 May 2017
Next Review
01 May 2020