7.30 ABC 2012

                                      Statement

On 13 March 2012 the ABC's 7.30 program put to air a segment on Facilitated Communication Training. In response, the Centre issued the following statement.

 

The Anne McDonald Centre is named in honour of Anne McDonald, a pioneering user of communication aids. In 1964, aged 3, unable to walk, talk or feed herself due to severe cerebral palsy, and believed to be severely retarded, Anne was placed in St Nicholas Hospital. How Anne used a spelling board to win her freedom from ‘the state garbage bin’ – her words - is the subject of Annie’s Coming Out, the book we co-authored, later made into a film.
 
                                                                    Anne & Rose
 
                                                                  Anne and I in 2008 (Melbourne Times)
 
After leaving St Nicholas in 1979 Anne McDonald graduated from university.  She wrote many articles and presentations delivered at national and international conferences, including I've only got one life to live, and I don't want to waste it all proving I exist . In 2008 Anne received the National Disability Award for Personal Achievement at Parliament House, Canberra. She died suddenly and far too young in 2010.
 
Tuesday night’s ABC 7.30 program included a story denigrating Anne and her oldest friend based largely on interviews with parents who had placed their children in St Nicholas Hospital in the 1960’s. They saw their children as profoundly retarded and did not believe they would ever communicate. Sadly, instead of being proud of her daughter’s achievements, Anne’s mother still cannot accept them (unfortunately we cannot respond to anything said about Anne’s friend Leonie, for legal and privacy reasons).
 
Forty years on, life should be different. The 7.30 story also included an interview with Tim Chan, a young man with autism who cannot talk, who is a client of the Anne McDonald Centre. He typed fluently on a speaking keyboard with his mother’s hand on his shoulder. However, Tim, who is lining up to do his VCE, and is the face of facilitated communication today, still suffers from prejudice. “I am intelligent but most people equate intellect with speech, so I don’t have the acceptance I crave.”
 
This could well be in part the result of the negative attitude to facilitated communication training adopted by the program, which was extremely selective in its coverage. One critic, Alan Hudson, spoke at length about his work without mentioning that it was done nearly 20 years ago. Much time was given to VALID’s Seth Howell, who while better looking than me has no expertise and no qualifications in the area of augmentative communication. Everything I said to Kirsten Veness about recent positive research was cut (but can be found on our website: /, along with links to videos of fluent communicators who started to use communication aids with facilitation).
 
The people who were not heard from, though, are the many people who cannot get the communication assistance they need. Despite the Victorian government funding communication aids for people with little or no speech, many children and adults still live in silence, with no way of communicating.  
 
Most people do not need facilitation to use communication aids. Some people need facilitation to get started but quickly become independent. Others continue to need facilitation for extended periods. 
 
We want to make sure everyone who needs a voice receives one, and learns to use it as effectively and independently as possible. This is a human rights issue.
 
Anne McDonald wrote “If other people without speech are helped as I was, they will say more than I could say. Free the still imprisoned!”
 

                                                                                                                  Dr. Rosemary Crossley

 

Three articles written by people who have used facilitated communication may be found on the
Australian Broadcasting Commission's Ramp Up website  www.abc.net.au/rampup/?type=opinion&page=3

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Anne McDonald Centre. 538 Dandenong Road, Caulfield 3162 Victoria, Australia Ph: 03 9509 6324, Fax: 03 9509 6321
 
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