In a letter to the editor published in the Sept. 27 Wall Street Journal, ASHA President Elise Davis-McFarland defends ASHA’s positions that discourage the use of facilitated communication and the rapid prompting method (RPM).
The letter is in response to a Sept. 23 op-ed piece in the same publication, written by a blogger with “nonspeaking autism” who claims he learned to communicate with RPM.
“Readers [of the op-ed] may come away with the impression that ASHA is the only organization that doesn’t recommend RPM,” Davis-McFarland says in the letter, noting that the associations for communication sciences and disorders professionals in Ireland, Australia and Canada have similar positions for the same basic reason—the lack of high-quality scientific proof of RPM’s efficacy.
Davis-McFarland says that ASHA’s positions are based on thorough, year-long, peer-reviewed process, and will review its statement if any rigorous studies showing efficacy are published. The association, she says, cannot rely on anecdotal accounts when making practice recommendations, “particularly when the practice of RPM bears many similarities to a widely discredited technique, facilitated communication, which has been proven ineffective and resulted in serious harm.”
ASHA encourages the use of augmentative and alternative communication devices that foster independence, absent the involvement of prompters or facilitators. “Proven methods that allow an individual to have a truly independent voice are being used successfully every day, all across the country, by speech-language pathologists,” she concludes.
Carol Polovoy is managing editor of The ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org