Facilitated Communication Training Conference, Day Two

More than 80 typers, family members, and facilitators attended Saved By Typing’s first Training the Trainer Conference in Central Indiana

After a great first day of Saved By Typing’s Facilitated Communication Master Trainer Training Conference on Saturday, everyone was eager to get back to it for the second session on Sunday, where typers and facilitators could start to practice the principles they learned from Marilyn Chadwick, Harvey Lavoy and Tracy Thresher.

After breaking up into groups, Harvey and Tracy started Skills Building training with their group of newer typers and supporters, while Marilyn worked with the more advanced group on skills they need to develop to achieve the ultimate goal of independent typing.


As Marilyn pointed out to her group, the time needed to achieve independent use of a communication device is influenced by a number of factors, including:
  • The severity of the problems the typer started with
  • The typer’s motivation levels
  • The availability of skilled, sympathetic, communication partners
She went on to discuss the basic principles and steps typers and facilitators needed to apply in order to attain their goal of independence, which include:
  • Talk about independence from the very beginning of training
  • Identify roadblocks to independence
  • Build the typer’s confidence by focusing on the person, not the process
  • Talk about independence from the very beginning of training
  • Discuss both the typer’s and the facilitator’s goals; create a plan to achieve those goals.
  • Look for ways to change the support and and empower the typer’s control
  • Discuss strategies to fade support
  • Provide a consistent time in the training schedule to specifically work on the skill of fading back

After the lunch break, Marilyn talked more about the philosophy of Independence, including strategies for developing speech, activities to practice, and the importance of sharing their success with others. She worked with each typer, showing them skills-building exercises they needed to work on to achieve their goal of independence as they began to practice the exercises she had demonstrated.

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Meanwhile, Harvey and Tracy continued skills building training with their group. They began to work with individuals as the typers and facilitators started to practice the techniques they learned.


Message-Passing: Who is the author of a message produced through FC?

After a short break, the two groups rejoined for an important discussion about message passing, what it is, and why it is important.

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One of problems that have made the acceptance of Facilitated Communication so difficult among certain circles is with the determination of who the actual author of a message was, the typer or the facilitator.

A number of studies conducted in the 1990’s used message-passing, where the typer needed to convey information or a message that was unknown to the facilitator, as the method to prove “authorship.” Unfortunately, most FC users in these studies filed to pass the messages successfully. These studies used this fact as “conclusive evidence that FC is not a valid communication technique,” without taking into consideration other possible factors for the failures.

Conversely, studies conducted in 1996 concluded that successful message-passing had been accomplished, including:
  • Weiss, Wagner, & Bauman[1], in which a single typer, after having a story read aloud to him, answered questions with facilitators who had both heard and not heard the story.
  • Biklen & Cardinal, et al.[2], where FC users were examined under controlled conditions to determine if they could type randomly selected words they, but not their facilitators, were shown.
  • Sheehan & Matouzzi[3], where participants were shown a stimulus (video, text, or picture) and asked to discuss it with a facilitator who had not seen it.
The 1997 Biklen & Cardinal study concluded that:
  • FC users can do message-passing successfully under the right conditions
  • FC user performance can be variable
  • Facilitator skill is critical
  • Participants were able to accurately pass messages to “naive” facilitators over 46% of the time
Additional studies conducted in 2001 and 2009 that positively demonstrated authorship used additional diverse research methodology, including:
  • Video eye tracking
  • Linguistic analysis of FC user users’ typing
  • Evidence of speech before and during typing

After a demonstration of message-passing by Tracy, the rest of the afternoon was spent practicing the typers’ message-passing skills, with individual attention given to each typer. See the photo gallery below of the typers as they practice what they learned during the conference.

Typers Photo Gallery

View More Photos in Facebook Conference Photo Gallery (opens in new window)For a report on Saturday’s activities, read Facilitated Communication Training Conference, Day One. For more pictures of the entire event, check out the Training the Trainer Conference photo album on Saved By Typing’s Facebook page.


What Comes Next: Future FC Training Programs and Events

It was extremely gratifying to see the progress made by the participants throughout the weekend. Feedback we received about the conference was very positive, and we look forward to hosting other training programs in the future.

In addition to our monthly Celebration of Communication, which everyone is invited to attend, SBT Program Director Jim Smyth announced our next upcoming event, a one-day Neurologic Music Therapy Workshop on Saturday, June 21. We hope to see you there for this entertaining and educational event.

1. Biklen, D., & Cardinal, D. N. (1997). Contested words contested science: Unraveling the facilitated communication controversy. New York: Teachers College Press.
2. Cardinal, D. N., Hanson, D. & Wakeham, J. (1996). Investigation of authorship in facilitated communication. Mental Retardation 34, 231-242.
3. Sheehan, C. & Matuozzi, R. (1996). Investigation of the validity of facilitated communication through the disclosure of unknown information. Mental Retardation 34, 94-107.