Position Statement of the AAIDD Board of Directors
The Board of Directors of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) strongly endorses the right of people with intellectual and related developmental disabilities to self-determination and recognizes that having an independent mode of communication is essential for individual agency (e.g., taking actions, making choices, expressing preferences).
Based on the current scientific evidence, the Board does not support the use of Facilitated Communication (FC)1 or the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM)2 as modes of communication for people with disabilities. In the case of FC, there is no scientific evidence supporting its validity, and there is considerable evidence that the messages are authored by the facilitator rather than by the individual with a disability. In the case of RPM, there is a lack of scientific evidence for its validity, and concerns about message authorship similar to those for FC have been raised.
The Board of Directors concludes that rather than helping people express their thoughts, desires, and choices, FC and RPM have the potential to effectively take away people’s voices. This is due to the risk of facilitator influence/authorship as well as the potential to displace efforts to access scientifically valid communication modes, such as those associated with the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)3.
1 Facilitated Communication (FC) is a technique that involves a person with a disability pointing to letters, pictures, or objects on a keyboard or on a communication board, typically with physical support from a facilitator. This physical support usually occurs on the hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder (Biklen, Winston Morton, Gold, Berrigan, & Swaminathan, 1992).
2 Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is a technique that involves a person with a disability pointing to letters from multiple choice options with the aid of sensory “prompts” which are intended to maintain attention on the task and extinguish sensory-motor preoccupations (Chen, Yoder, Ganzel, Goodwin, & Belmonte, 2012). RPM requires an instructor to elicit responses through intensive verbal, auditory, visual and/or tactile prompts to compete with the individual’s self-stimulatory behavior (Learning RPM – Frequent Questions, n.d.).
3 Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a set of tools and strategies used to solve every day communicative challenges (What is ACC?, n.d.). An AAC aid is any device, either electronic or non-electronic, that is used to transmit or receive messages (Beukelman & Mirenda, 2005); aids range from communication boards to speech generating devices (Mirenda, 2003).
Beukelman, D. R. & Mirenda, P. (2005). Augmentative & alternative communication: supporting children & adults with complex communication needs (3rd ed.). Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-55766-684-0.
Biklen, D., Winston Morton, M., Gold, D., Berrigan, C., & Swaminathan, S. (1992). Facilitated communication: Implications for individuals with autism. Topics in Language Disorders, 12(4), 1–28. https://journals.lww.com/topicsinlanguagedisorders/Citation/1992/08000/Facilitated_communication__Implications_for.3.aspx
Chen, G.M., Yoder, K. J., Ganzel, B.L., Goodwin, M.S., & Belmonte, M.K. . Harnessing Repetitive behaviours to engage attention and learning in a novel therapy for autism: An exploratory analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(12), https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2012.00012
Learning RPM – Frequent Questions (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.halo-soma.org/learning_faqs.php?sess_id=339292b13bc175620b479fef7564b5b4#UNDERSTANDING_RAPID_PROMPTING_METHOD
Mirenda, P. (2003). Toward functional augmentative and alternative communication for students with autism: manual signs, graphic symbols, and voice output communication aids. Language, Speech, & Hearing Services in Schools. 34 (3): 203–216. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2003/017)
What is ACC? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.isaac-online.org/english/what-is-aac).
Board of Directors, AAIDD
January 9, 2019