The purpose of this study is to test the methodology of facilitated communication in order to prove what is really taking place, beyond appearances, whether disabled subjects are actually able to communicate as a result of their own free will using facilitated communication, or are subjects being intentionally or unintentionally persuaded by the facilitator to type messages not of their own volition. The hypothesis posed in the introduction is as follows: that subjects are indeed being influenced by the facilitator as a result of the facilitators interaction with the subject, therefore subjects are not typing of their own volition.
The general design of this study was experimental. The dependent variable was the number of correct or incorrect responses to stimulus cards throughout the sessions. The independent variable was the manner in which the stimulus was presented, and the method or absence of communication or contact. There were three different ways to present the stimulus cards, the facilitated condition which specified that the subject be shown a stimulus card, but the facilitator is not, the not facilitated condition which specified that conditions would be the same as the facilitated condition except the facilitator was not allowed to physically interact with the subject, and the distractor condition which specified that subject and facilitator would both be shown stimulus cards, but half of the time the cards would be the same, and half of the time they would be different.
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This type of design was probably used because it is the best way to test a hypothesis involving a cause-effect relationship. The hypothesis dealing with facilitated communication clearly has a cause-effect relationship, (the cause being the influence of the facilitation, and the effect being the subject not typing the correct response of their own volition) This kind of design is also very effective in proving a hypothesis because it takes place in a laboratory and allows for a strong control of variables, therefore if a change is observed in the dependent variable, one can be sure it is a result of the independent variable without interference from outside sources. In contrast the design is also limited in the sense that the subject is not in their natural environment, (all though attempts were made to reproduce normal facilitated communication sessions, i.e. the cards were the same ones used in previous facilitated communication sessions), and may act differently than he or she normally would.
The key graph of the experimental results showed the responses recorded from the subjects in facilitated, and distractor conditions. The graph shows there were zero clearly correct responses in the facilitated condition sessions, and that there were twelve out of sixty responses in the distractor-different condition, where the subject typed the correct response to the facilitators card that they could not view. The rest of the responses in the distractor-different condition were incorrect. In the distractor-same condition there were fourteen out of sixty responses in which the subject typed correct responses to their card, and the facilitator’s card, the rest of the responses in the distractor-same condition were incorrect. This data supports the initial hypothesis because of the overwhelming lack of any clearly correct responses in either the facilitated or distractor conditions, as well as the percentage of responses in the distractor-different condition where the subject typed the correct response to the facilitator’s card that they were unable to see, seemingly there could be no other explanation for this occurrence than that the facilitator was influencing the subject’s responses.
I am fully convinced that the authors conclusions are valid. The experiment was conducted in a way that it is very unlikely that the subjects performance could be affected by anything but the independent variable. The results of the experiment strongly support the idea of facilitator influence.
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