(This site is still a work in progress, any suggestions are welcome. A list of all the articles can be found down on the right)

Facilitation, Miracle or Mirage?

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

A recent book and an article in Country Yossie all about autistic kids speaking their minds and giving all sorts of interesting advice and opinions got me all excited. Was it real? Could such kids  actually see hidden things and communicate them to us with a discovery called “Facillated Communication,” or FC for short, or was it all just a fake and sleight of hand? I hoped and wanted to believe it was really true, so I decided to do some research on the subject and share it with the readers of CY.

As always, one of the reasons that CY is so popular is that it is not afraid of controversy . It publishes articles and opinions that no other publication would dare accept. Readers must be warned to be very careful and never accept anyone’s opinion, including mine, until they check it out for themselves. Just remember, “A fool believes all”. Always be open-minded and try to do as much research on the subject as possible before drawing any conclusions. Make sure to read both sides carefully and don’t believe anyone, even if his name is Einstein. Many great people have made mistakes, and those who believe they are infallible are simply not looking into the mirror. Not  all mistakes are bad. Just look at what happened when Columbus  made a mistake. He discovered America!
How FC works.
FC is a very interesting phenomenon to observe.  Individuals of severely low function,  such as autistic children, are assisted in spelling words by specially trained teachers or parents  who are called “facilitators.” They provide the physical support the child needs in order to point to the letters on a printed display or a keyboard. The facilitator holds their hand, wrist or forearm, as the child points to the letters in front of him. A child who does not appear to know the difference between a cat or an elephant can seemingly identify them correctly by picking out the correct letters. When one watches it, it looks quite impressive and convincing. The things the child conveys can really blow your mind. Can it really be that these children are very perceptive and reveal lots of secrets, if only they are given the opportunity? Some say yes, while others cry foul!

Who discovered it?
It all began in the 1970’s with a women named Rosemary Crossley, a teacher in an institution in Melbourne, Australia. She became convinced that when she held the hands of her students who had  severe cerebral palsy, they could communicate their inner thoughts to her. She called her technique Facilitated Communication, and began to teach it to others. It soon caught on, but also started a great controversy in the scientific world that goes on until today. Some say that it is impossible and it is really the facilitator who is subconsciously moving the child’s hand,  while others firmly believe that the child is moving his hand all on his own. Over the years, many scientific studies have been made, with most of them disproving FC.

How can one prove or disprove it?
The best way to prove or disprove it is to have the facilitator ask the child a question for which the facilitator  does not know the answer, and see if the child will get it right. Let’s assume that the facilitator does not know the names of the child’s brothers or sisters or other such information.  Will the child get the answer right even though the facilitator does not know the answer? If the child can answer the question even in cases where the facilitator does not know the answer, then facilitating must be real. All experiments have so far shown that when the facilitator did not know the answer, neither did the child!

Another very clever experiment that has been tried was to put the facilitator right next to the child but block the facilitator from seeing the picture that is being shown to the child and in fact show the facilitator a different picture than the child is seeing. If the child will spell out the words that he sees, and not what the facilitator sees, then it will be proven that it is he that is really communicating his own thoughts and not that of the facilitator. All experiments have found that the child would never read the picture he sees but always described what the facilitator was being shown. Should that then end the controversy? For some, the answer is a resounding Yes, but for others who are completely mesmerized by it, as they are with flying saucers and Uri Geller,  the controversy will continue on.

What do I believe? Well, let me tell you about this person who was abducted by aliens from a foreign planet and......!

P.S. It should be noted that FC raises false hopes for many families and its promotion diverts efforts and fund-raising from more plausible long-term strategies that have empirical support. It also scams people out of their hard earned money which they could be using for more important needs. The truth must be told no matter how much it may  hurt!

RE: FC Facilitated Communication:

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 days.

No comments:

Post a Comment