Thursday, April 10, 2008

More on the facilitated communication abuse case...

This is a comment from a well-informed reader about a Michigan abuse case against the father of an autisitic teenager where the judge was prepared to allow testimony from the girl through facilitated communication. This is referring to a post on January 30, 2008, Judge allows autistic girl's testimony using facilitated communication:
When the judge said he found "nothing scientific" about facilitated communication, he was not saying that FC was not valid. He was making a legal judgment that facilitated communication was not a technique that might be subject to a general scientific test. For instance, a method for measuring the concentration of salt in water would be "scientific."

When the judge denied the defense a Daubert hearing, he explicitly ruled that FC was a form of "interpretation" like translating Spanish into English, and was thus legally immune from a general scientific evaluation. In other words, the judge was accepting the validity of FC as a technique even though FC objectively differs from interpretation in several significant aspects. (A court in Kansas had taken the same position around 1993). The defense would have to attempt to undermine the veracity of the accusations themselves as though they were genuine statements made by the girl. In doing this, judge was adopting a position advanced by Phipps and Ells in an article in the Nebraska Law Review--a position that legal analyst Brian Gorman described as "bad science and bad law."

It is significant that the judge adopted as "guidance" the only two cases in which FC was allowed into court rather than the many in which it was not. Doing so might have been the only way for him to rescue the prosecutor's case, which was not going well. Ironically, one of the cases the judge selected as "guidance" eventually resulted in the dismissal of the charges against the falsely accused parents and a $750,000 settlement in their favor.
Of course, now we know that all the charges were dismissed. However, it is important to note that the prosecution never admitted any mistakes. In fact, its excuse for granting the dismissal, that the girl typed out that she was too afraid to testify, was really just a despicable parting shot against the parents. It also did not ring true. If the authorities were willing to coerce the younger brother as they did, what was to prevent them from pressuring the girl to testify. The reality is that they had nothing but bogus accusations to go on, and would have had to face a very well-prepared defense that had actual facts on its side.

Ann Arbor recreation programs for Spring 2008

The Ann Arbor Rec & Ed catalog for Spring 2008 is available on-line. You can find Adapted Recreation classes for special needs adults and children on page 34 of the catalog. Look at the catalog here and the AA Rec & Ed website here.

The classes currently offered are:

Cooking Cooperatively: Every Wednesday from 4/16 to 6/4, 5:15 - 7:30 pm, at the High Point Young Adult kitchen. The emphasis is on kitchen safety and measuring techniques while creating simple foods.

Dinner & a Movie: Every Thursday from 4/24 to 5/29, 5:30 - 8:30 pm, at the High Point School Young Adult kitchen. Make a simple meal, watch a new movie every week, and become a film critic in the discussion afterwards.

Adapted Swim Sessions: Friday evenings, starting at either 5:30 or 6:00 pm, at the High Point pool, from 4/18 - 5/30. Private instruction or therapeutic swim lessons. Grade K - adult.

Strike Force: Bowl up to two games per week and get an official Strike Force t-shirt. Monday afternoons starting at 4 pm, from 4/14 - 6/9 at Colonial Lanes.

Check the catalog for fees and scholarship opportunities. On-line registration is available here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

U of M Research Opportunity for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Children with severe physical and speech impairments are difficult to test. Conventional testing may not provide accurate information about a child’s abilities because the child must be able to speak or point to answer questions. The Adapted Cognitive Assessment Lab (ACAL) at the University of Michigan in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation has developed alternative testing methods to provide a more accurate and well-rounded profile of a child’s abilities.

The ACAL research focuses on communication through the development of choice-making skills in children with CP. They hope to foster appropriate supports in school and community settings through the results of ACAL testing. For more information, email:

or call: 734-936-6023 or 734-936-6604.

Visit the ACAL website for more information and opportunities to participate in various research projects.