Facilitated Communication: Fact or Fiction? (Part Two)

July 26, 2017 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
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Facilitated communication has resulted in many parents being unable to trust the system.

Welcome back to our discussion on facilitated communication, and the role it has played in child abuse and neglect cases in the past. In the introductory article in this series we discussed exactly what this questionable method of communication is, and how it has been discredited by experts.

Facilitated communication, which is still considered to be a largely controversial method of communications for nonverbal patients, was only introduced in the late 70’s. By the early 90’s it was widely regarded as a fringe therapy, and not acknowledged by the larger medical community as valid in most cases.

In part, this was due to the fact that many of the individuals for whom it was used ended up producing complex works of poetry and full paragraphs of writing. These were deemed well beyond their capabilities based on age and education. Another factor was the substantial number of individuals who, in a controlled testing environment, were unable to communicate correct answers when their facilitators were unaware of the question.

However, where this really becomes an issue is when the communications are accusations of physical or sexual abuse against family members and medical staff. After all, if the validity of the method is questioned, how truthful can these accusations be? Think about it…in most tests conducted, the content of the comminuted material was discovered to be generated by the facilitator and not the non-verbal person. So wouldn’t that make these accusations nothing more than a false allegation?

In 1993, Frontline, a PBS show that focuses on public affairs and in-depth documentaries, created an episode that addressed these concerns. Most of the allegations they investigated during the making of the documentary proved to be false, and in the end Frontline ended up comparing facilitated communication to the use of a Ouija board.

Experts have likened it to using a Ouija board, or dabbling in phrenology

So what do the experts have to say on this matter? Howard Shane, a speech pathologist from the children’s hospital Boston, is considered to be something of an expert on the subject of facilitated communication. He has testified in a number of trials that arose from allegations made through facilitated communication.

In 1992 he consulted on the Betsy Wheaton case, in which Betsy supposedly accused her father and brother of sexually abusing her through the medium of facilitated communication. Since that particular case, he has consulted and testified on a number of others, all equally tragic and all proven to be false. When the Wendrows went to trial, Shane was once again brought on to testify.

Who are the Wendrows, you wonder? Julian and Tali Wendrow are a couple from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, whose lives were torn apart by false allegations of sexual abuse, allegedly made by their daughter Aislinn through her facilitator. At their trial, Shane was accused by the prosecutor of not being able to call himself an expert on the subject of facilitated communication. The reason? They said he hadn’t done any real research into the subject in 15 years.

Shane’s answer to the accusation was poignant. “It’d be like suggesting that we continue to study cold fusion or bloodletting,” Obviously, he explained, there is no point. “When it’s over, it’s over.” If only that were true!

In the next installment of this article, we will be delving further into why this controversial “pseudoscience” has been discredited by authorities, and why one Michigan family was still able to be devastated by something that was long ago proven to be nothing more than an old wives tale. Until then, if you or a loved one have been falsely accused of abusing or neglecting a child call the experienced defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm, at 866 766 5245. We are here to help you!