Facilitated Communication: Can Children with Autism Have a Voice in Court?
Maryland Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues,. 6, No. 2, p. 233, 1995
50 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2010
Date Written: 1995
Facilitated communication (FC) is a controversial method of assisted communication in which a “facilitator” provides physical and emotional support to assist a person with a communication disability in pointing to letters on an alphabet board or typing device in order to transmit a message. Proponents argue that FC has helped unlock previously unknown abilities, improved behaviors and well-being, and increased independent communication for people with autism. Critics argue, however, that FC communication is invalid citing studies showing FC to be influenced or controlled by the facilitator. The clinical debate over the use of FC came to a head in the early 1990s, prompting legal debate over its validity, when FC was used to make allegations of abuse against parents or caregivers, and the courts were asked to rule on the admissibility of such communication with varying results.
This article explores the phenomenon of FC, and the implications of excluding FC as a means of participating in the legal system. It traces the introduction and widespread use of FC in this country and examines the clinical debate surrounding FC along with the legal issues of admissibility under the Frye and Daubert standards. Additionally, the article considers issues of access to the courts under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and recommends protocols for the use of FC in court proceedings to ensure that the rights of victims as well as defendants are protected.
Keywords: Facilitated Communication, Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation