Berger, Joseph. "Shattering the Silence of Autism," New York Times, 12 February 1994, p. 21,

 

Berger, Joseph. "Shattering the Silence of Autism," New York Times, 12 February 1994, p. 21,
27.

This is an article about a family which has been shattered by "facilitated communication." Mark
and Laura Storch have now "gone public" concerning their daughter, Jenny, who is an autistic
child. The girls's erstwhile therapist, Lisa A. Ring, used a technique for communicating with the
child which is called "facilitated communication." Here, the therapist holds the child while the
child enters thoughts onto a computer's keyboard. Presumptively, the child is spelling out its
thoughts but some have likened the technique to the same sort of thing that makes a Ouija board
work.

Facilitated communication is here identified as the work of Douglas Iiklen who is here described
as the methods;s "chief American champion." Dr. Biklen is with Syracuse University's special
education program. Indeed, the Storch's suit also named Douglas Biklen as a defendant and the
university's chancellor, Kenneth A. Shaw called a news conference to defend his professor. But
clearly, there is a great deal of emotion about the case.

The patient's facilitator may be doing the work attributed to the patient. In the Storch case, the
girl has accused her father of sexually molesting her. The child was then removed from the
family and, for the past ten months, the parents have been able to see their daughter only closely
supervised. Now the judge in the case, Katern K. Peters of Ulster County, has ruled that the
Social Service department has failed to prove abuse.

Are accusations made via a computer keyboard by an "assisted" autistic patient valid? The
patient stares off into space and types abuse on the keyboard.

Biklen has admitted that the "facilitator" can be a problem but he insists that teachers and others
can be trained to guard against facilitators. It is reported here that the method has, among other
things, created more than 50 allegations of sexual abuse! By citing Biklen in their lawsuit, the
Storch;s hope to bring into question the intellectual foundations of the technique.