Recent Italian Research on Facilitated Communication


Results from the largest ever research project on Facilitated Communication Training were published late last year.  The researchers from the University of Padua state that the project involved: 
    a. reference to four accredited [FCT] centers [to obtain subjects]; 
    b. the collection of texts from three different groups of subjects, giving rise to three corresponding corpora:
    b1) 13 subjects with a known history of FC training, from the introductory phase to full and independent control of the method; these subjects were supported by 33 facilitators and the mass of material available for analysis consisted of approximately 400 pages, corresponding to 130,142 word tokens;
    [b1 - the first section of the study - was published in Bernardi, L. (Ed.) (2008). Il Delta Dei Significati. [The Delta of Meanings]. - details below.]
    b2) 37 subjects who had reached a high level of independence, whose texts were collected during the course of the present project under conditions of "reduced facilitation" (beyond arm/shoulder level) with at least three different facilitators. In all, 92 facilitators were involved (some of them worked with more than one IWA) and about 900 pages were generated, corresponding to 290,496 word tokens;
    [b2 - the second section of the study - is published as a chapter in A Comprehensive Book on Autism Spectrum Disorders and an article in the journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities  - details below.]
    b3) a case-control experiment was arranged, involving 6 IWA and 6 individuals without disabilities, comparing their performance in a given essay. The corpus obtained in this case was naturally much more limited (14 pages containing 4,360 word tokens).
    [b3 - the third part of the study - is published in the journal Augmentative and Alternative Communication - details below.] 
The above outline of the 3 studies comes from page 3 of the PDF of the chapter in A Comprehensive Book on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Use the following link to access and download the PDF of this chapter:
If the PDF of the chapter has been corrupted, you can still obtain it by downloading the free PDF of the complete book.
Details of Publications on FC from the Italian Interdisciplinary Research Program (EASIEST)

Papers from the first section of the study (b1) are collected in - Bernardi, L. (Ed.) (2008). Il delta dei significati. [The Delta of Meanings]. Rome: Carocci   

A summary of one chapter is available in English: Benelli, B. & Cemin, L. M. (2008). Rappresentazioni semantiche nel linguaggio degli autistici: il caso degli avverbi. 
[Semantic Representations of the Language of Individuals with Autism: the Case of Adverbs]. pp. 105-124.

This research line analyzed, through the use of computer, the written linguistic production of non verbal children, adolescents and adultswith Autism who use "Facilitated Communication". The analyses revealed a richer lexical knowledge in children, adolescents and adultswith Autism than in Facilitators; particularly, they showed a more frequent and various use of adjective, adverbs and words conveying a psychological, cognitive and affective-emotive content than Facilitators. Moreover, an adequate literal and metaphorical comprehension of words and a rich, various and elegant linguistic register were shown (also in children younger than 10 years). The syntactic structure was characterized by the scarce use of function words, by the displacement of auxiliaries at the end of the sentence and by adjectives and adverbs that systematically precede the name and the verb, respectively.
 Finally, text production was difficult and slow. However written communicative messages were coherent and expressed complex contents, reflection and emotions 

Bernardi, L. (Ed.) (2008). Il delta dei significati. [The Delta of Meanings]. Rome: Carocci  


  • Bernardi, L.  and Patrizia Cadei (2008) Introduction, pp 1-36
  •  Benelli, B. & Cemin, L. M. (2008). Rappresentazioni semantiche nel linguaggio degli autistici: il caso degli       avverbi. [Semantic Representations of the Language of Individuals with Autism: the Case of Adverbs]. pp. 105-124.
  •  Di Benedetto, C. (2008). Isole semantiche nell’emotivo mare: un’analisi lessicale, retorica e sintattica. [Semantic islands in the emotional sea: a lexical, rhetorical and syntactic analysis]. pp. 80-96
  • Cortelazzo M.A. (2008). Ricchezza del lessico nel corpus EASIEST. [Lexical richness in the EASIEST corpus], pp. 66-79.
  • Fratter, I. (2008). «Palombaro ero in fondo al mare»: uno studio di caso sull’analisi diacronica dei costituenti nella CF. ["Diver I was on the sea floor": a case study of facilitated communication factors in time], pp. 97-104
  • Sbalchiero, S., & Neresini, F. (2008). La scienza e l’eresia: il controverso caso della Comunicazione Facilitata. [Science and heresy: the controversial case of facilitated communication]. (pp. 125-135)
  • Tuzzi A. (2008), Diversity statistics. A comparative analysis, pp. 37-55.
  •  Ursini F. (2008). Le parole tra noi leggère cadono. [Words between us lightly fall], pp.. 56-65.

The second part of the study (b2)  is published as a book chapter.
Statistical Analysis of Textual Data from Corpora of Written Communication – New Results from an Italian Interdisciplinary Research Program (EASIEST)
Lorenzo Bernardi and Arjuna Tuzzi
in A Comprehensive Book on Autism Spectrum Disorders
ISBN 978-953-307-494-8
Edited by: Mohammad-Reza Mohammadi
Publisher: InTech, September 2011

The chapter was based on a 2009 article by Dr Tuzzi in
Tuzzi, A., Grammar and lexicon in individuals with autism: a quantitative analysis of a large Italian corpus
Statistical and linguistic procedures were implemented to analyze a large corpus of texts written by 37 individuals with autism and 92 facilitators (without disabilities), producing written conversations by means of PCs. Such texts were compared and contrasted to identify the specific traits of the lexis of the group of individuals with autism and assess to what extent it differed from the lexis of the facilitators. The purpose of this research was to identify specific language features using statistical procedures to analyze contingency lexical tables that reported on the frequencies of words and grammatical categories in different subcorpora and among different writers. The results support the existence of lexis and distributional patterns of grammatical categories that are characteristic of the written production of individuals with autism and that are different from those of facilitators.
PMID: 19842741 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

The third part of the study (b3) was published in the journal AAC in September 2011

Augmentative and Alternative Communication
. 2011 Sep;27(3):183-94.
Analyzing written communication in AAC contexts: a statistical perspective.
Bernardi L, Tuzzi A.
Department of Sociology, University of Padua, Padova, Italy.

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