Facilitating Communication, Changing Lives


Facilitating Communication, Changing Lives


DEAL Communication Centre (now the Anne McDonald Centre) has been providing people with little or no functional speech with the tools for self-advocacy for twenty-five years. One of the tools we've developed over that time is facilitated communication training (FCT), which we use with some people who have difficulty pointing and making the sequences of controlled movements needed to create sentences on communication aids.

In FCT literate students are given support to access keyboards while they acquire the hand skills and co-ordination necessary for independent typing.  At the same time they learn to use AAC strategies requiring single selections such as Yes/No and multiple choice independently so they are not totally dependent on facilitation.  The method has been successful for many people and is used around the world.  Some agencies call it  supported typing.

Here's a short bibliography of refereed journal articles supporting Facilitated Communication, just to show that it is academically respectable as well as therapeutically effective; /fc-bibliography

Recently I attended the Communication and Inclusion conference held at MIT in Boston where three hundred people came together to hear about the latest developments in facilitation research and practice.  The conference was dedicated to Anne McDonald.


The first keynote was delivered by Jamie Burke, a young man with autism. Jamie started to learn to type with facilitation aged 5, and now types without support. He started to speak at age 13 after getting a Lightwriter which said what he typed. Jamie's now 22 and in final year uni. He read his presentation fluently and then took questions, typing complex answers quickly and independently and reading them out.

Arriving back with new ideas for using the i-Pad to develop hand skills, new DVDs of people typing independently, and new validation research involving eye-tracking, to be greeted by a campaign against facilitated communication which appears to rest on data from the last century was a shock.  To put the record straight, attached is a list of articles, books and videotapes, including research studies that validate facilitated communication.
[Please see Attachment #1 - Select Bibliography of FCT].

Like any therapeutic strategy, facilitation may be misused, but there's ample evidence to support its effectiveness when best practices are observed.  Because journal articles only get you so far, the best evidence for the value of facilitating communication is the people who have used it - real people, communication aid users whose lives turned around once they could demonstrate their competence, first by communicating with support and then by acquiring through long practice the hand skills needed to use communication aids independently.


Lucy Blackman, above, is featured on the Queensland Department of Communities calendar for August 2011. (Please see Attachment #2 - Lucy's Story Aug 2011).  She's just one of many - and, luckily, the technology is now available for you to be able to see them.

Have a look at Here We Are World, a video of a conversation between five adults with ASD at an earlier conference, and enjoy their wit and humor (Jamie Burke, mentioned above, is one of them).  It can be seen on the Home Page of the Institute of Communication and Inclusion at Syracuse University, along with other videos about facilitation leading to independent communication aid use:  soeweb.syr.edu/centers_institutes/institute_communication_inclusion/about_the_ici/Videos.aspx



The five adults who now converse so readily all started to communicate by using keyboards with hand support, and took many years to achieve their current skills.  The two older men starred in the recently released full-length documentaryWretches and Jabberers, chosen by the Autism Society of America as their flagship for Autism Awareness Week 2011.  The trailer and purchase details can be found at  www.wretchesandjabberers.org  
Copies of Wretches and Jabberers are available for short‐term loan from Deal for people living in Australia.  If you emaildealadmin@ozemail.com.au with your postal address we'll put you on the list.


In the end, though, the most important thing about communication is the power that it gives. That's why everyone should have the right to communicate using the tools that suit them best.  Sadly people who cannot speak are just as vulnerable to mis-statements and mis-assessments today as Anne McDonald was in 1979. There's a lot to learn from her experience. (Please see Attachment #3 - A Lesson from Annie).

 AnneAnne McDonald 11.1.1961 - 22.10.2010

If you would like more information on FCT please read the short outline of FCT at


Facilitated Communication Training, a textbook about the use of facilitation, is also available on the website: 

Breaking the Silence, a short video clip of children just starting to use communication aids, with and without facilitation, may be viewed on the Home page.  The full version, 17 minutes long, may be ordered from Deal www.annemcdonaldcentre.org.au/our-resources

If you have any questions please email us at admin@annemcdonaldcentre.org.au

Rosemary Crossley


 May 2012 

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