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Facilitated Communication

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

The Torah explicitly warns us never to seek the advice of a necromancer or to consult those who use the art of “Ov” or Yedoni,” astrology or witchcraft. According to the Rambam and others, they have been forbidden because they are all based on deception, falsehoods and lies and they can easily mislead us with false beliefs. While there certainly are thousands of people that consult them to get opinions on a variety of subjects, this all remains prohibited to Jews. Most scientists seem to agree that it’s all a bunch of nonsense and foolishness and therefore N.Y. State law outlaws crystel ball readings as well as psychics and fortunetellers.

One of the latest hoaxes making the rounds is called Facilitated Communication or FC for short. Many books have been published telling spectacular revelations supposedly made by autistic children through the use of FC. FC can easily be disproved and shown to be a scam and consulting a facilitator is no different than going to a palm reader or gazing into a crystal ball or consulting a horoscope.

One of the greatest dangers of FC is that there are lots of people that have made some very important life decisions based on consulting these facilitators. People have made marriage or business decisions based completely on the results of FC. The problem is that there are many people who believe so strongly in them that they refuse to listen to all logic. Many people’s lives have been ruined on account of false accusations based entirely on FC readings. There have been many courts cases based entirely on the evidence produced by FC.

Dear Rabbi Teitelbaum

Thanks for the excellent and enlightening article on FC (Facilitating Communication). I too have read the scientific studies that claim that it is really the facilitator that is sub-consciously causing the autistic child to point to certain letters. Yet I am somewhat puzzled since I have tested one particular autistic child and he was able to get the answers right even when the facilitator did not know the answers to the questions. Others I tested were not able to so this. How do you explain this apparent contradiction? There are some that use facilitation to find out the future. Is this permitted? Also, could you explain what gilgul neshamos is all about and why these children must suffer so?

Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum replies

Since I've received many questions regarding F.C. I’d like to say the following. The subject of facilitation is a very controversial one and is dealt with in great length by many experts far more competent then I am on this subject. In my article that appeared in CY before the summer I wrote that the way to determine if FC is valid or not is to see if the autistic child is able to answer the question correctly even when the facilitator does not know the question the child is being asked or does not know the answer to that question. My article was based on the scientific papers that claimed to have tested these children and they were unable to answer the questions correctly when the facilitators did not themselves know the answers or the questions. However, most recently, a few people who have worked with these children have claimed that they have tried these same experiments and have gotten different results. They claim that the children were able to get the correct answers even in cases where the facilitator had no idea what the questions where nor did the facilitator know any of the answers. If this information were correct, then it would certainly shed new light on the subject.

Since I have not personally tested any of these children and have relied on scientific studies that I have read, this new information should certainly leave the door open for competent unbiased research to be made. If competent experts in the field get the same results, then this will surely prove the case in favor of FC and I will surely be the first one to bring these results to the public’s attention since I certainly have no personal bias one way or the other. My aim is to get at the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

I have also spoken to some gedolim that felt that there may be some truth to FC but they warn against using it to ask these children to predict future events as some are now doing.

As far as gilgulim are concerned and where these holy neshomos come from I’ll leave these topics for those who are as great as the Ari z.t.l.. I just know that every neshamah comes from the highest of sources and is a "chelek elokai mi’mal" no matter in what kind of body it was placed. Why some neshamos come down to this world in such a manner we’ll have to wait for Eliyahu ha’novi to explain. May he come soon in our day

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