The experts at ASHA, the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, have evidently become concerned that more and more autistic people have broken through the communication barrier using methods other than theirs. Their response has been to put together a position paper condemning these other methods. It’s a bit ironic. In my own case, speech therapy didn’t accomplish much despite years of expert instruction. Too often, the failed autistic speaker is blamed for the failure to speak because he is labeled as being too low functioning, too lazy, or too dumb to advance. And the speech therapist is off the hook for failing to made headway in communication with the non-speaking student since he’s written off as being low functioning, lazy, or dumb. It’s a great system, to be sure.
So certain methods that try to teach another way to communication are derided as a hoax. Hoaxes certainly exist in autistic treatments. One must be vigilant because unknown neurological factors are at play and people can make treatment claims based on nothing more than the hopes of parents. But hopeful parents can also spend 10 years (or more) on well-established methods that give little result more than a few embedded phrases and some unclearly articulated words to show for it. When the end result of ten years of speech therapy is someone who speaks like I do, then from their point-of-view, it seems a logical extension to determine that the method that gave me the ability to express myself fluently through letters is invalid. Of course, if I had been left with my speech alone to communicate, I’d still be locked in and completely trapped. They reject my communication because they were not successful teaching me- or others like me- to communicate expressively.
So, no thanks. I’ll take a “hoax” that worked over a treatment that failed me any day.
The ASHA position is still in draft form. You can rebut or respond until June 24. Here is a link. And here are some sample quotes that show their line of thinking. Note that the communication of typers, (and this is regardless of the degree of autonomy), is discredited.
“For both FC and RPM, there is no credible evidence that messages are authored by the person with a disability, and there is no credible evidence indicating authentic independent communication or any other beneficial outcome arising from FC or RPM (Lang et al., 2014; Tostanoski et al., 2014; Schlosser et al., 2014).”
“(ii) In RPM, there is no empirical evidence to show that facilitated messages are authored by the individual with a disability.”
“Both FC and RPM rely on presumptions of competency (Travers & Ayres, 2015). Presumption of competency is a risk to an individual’s safety when it is given more credence in treatment decisions than known facts about the individual or evidence to the contrary.”
“In the absence of evidence that messages delivered by RPM are authored by the person with a disability, RPM poses a potential risk of harm to the person using RPM and their family members. This is because, RPM being untested, there is a risk that the messages delivered via RPM are not authored by the individual but are instead authored by the “facilitator.” Other professional associations have warned members against using RPM (Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapists, 2017; Speech Pathology Australia, 2012; Speech-Language and Audiology Canada, 2018).”