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Is the government paying for a miracle or a myth?

When told that it looked like she was controlling Thompson's arm, Johnson responded, "You can't feel the resistance."

Resistance is an important part of facilitated-communication training. It's the facilitator's job to pull back on his partner's hand, creating tension. "As soon as she touches a letter, you're going to pull back up," Brenda Granger, who's been doing the training under the WOW grant, instructed one pair. "Pull back to the middle so they can go either way. You need to get the feel for how hard people are going to push."

Never tell them "I'll just help you with the first letter," she added.

He types, it talks: Mike Hoover and his mother, Donna 
Downing.
Jim J. Narcy
He types, it talks: Mike Hoover and his mother, Donna Downing.

As she watched the training, Linda Rosa, executive director of Advocates for Children in Therapy and an outspoken critic of attachment therapy, let an occasional eye roll or exasperated laugh escape her. Afterward, she asked the WOW group if they would arrange a test to demonstrate facilitated communication's effectiveness to skeptics. She suggested that they send Thompson's facilitator out of the room while Rosa asked him a simple addition problem that would be easy for a man who'd passed calculus. The facilitator could then return to help him express the answer.

Rosa's idea was rejected. There would be test anxiety, she was told. A facilitator's presence was necessary for processing. "They claimed people coming to their trainings were quite satisfied with their success stories, and that I was the only one to ever question facilitated communication," Rosa says.

Dr. Bernard Rimland of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego is another outspoken critic of the therapy, even though he knows of one successful case -- and even though his own son is autistic. In a recently published paper, he said that seventy studies involving 500 mentally-handicapped individuals have shown overwhelmingly that if the facilitator does not know the question, the client cannot respond correctly. So Rimland finds it "absolutely shocking" that a group of facilitated-communication users have received government funding. "It's fraud," he says. "Not only is it fraud, it's dangerous. People's lives have been ruined because of this. It's just terrible. It's an awful shame that they're getting away with it. They should be exposed."

Although Hoover emphasizes the importance of not misusing facilitated communication, he insists he's never met someone who hasn't authored their own words. "I think I need to tell people who do not believe facilitated communication is real that they need to look at the lives of people who type and tell them to learn more about autism from the people who have it," he says. "I think I need them to get a life doing something helpful, not trying to stop people who need FC because of their narrow perceptions of truth."

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