Monday, May 23, 2016

Another autism miracle cure!

Here we go again! Yet another child who "has autism"--and a normal mind "locked inside." From this past week's Washington Post:

For the first 14 and a half years of Gordy’s life, Evan and Dara Baylinson had no reason to think their son could comprehend anything they said: He had never spoken, and he couldn’t really emote. They worried aloud about his future, not filtering what they said, because they didn’t think he understood. 
But Gordy, it now appears, was absorbing everything.
“My brain, which is much like yours, knows what it wants and how to make that clear,” he wrote in a letter he sent this month to a police officer. “My body, which is much like a drunken, almost six-foot toddler, resists.” 
He typed each letter one at a time with his right index finger. No one coached him, edited his words or told him what to say, according to his parents and therapist. After two one-hour sessions, he had written a nearly 400-word note.  
“This letter is not a cry for pity, pity is not what I’m looking for,” he wrote. “I love myself just the way I am, drunken toddler body and all. This letter is, however, a cry for attention, recognition and acceptance.” 
Unbeknownst to his parents for so many years, their son was a beautiful writer with a lot to say.
The usual trappings are in place: an expensive, unproven, Guru-driven technique; a specific"therapist" who is apparently present for all the child's communications; a keyboard that for some reason has to be held up for the child instead of being placed on a stand; letters that for some reason have to be read out loud to the child "as he types." And a reporter who assures us that the therapist doesn't "visibly prompt him or move the keyboard."

With no video to watch--despite the fact that the Washington Post often does accompany stories with videos--I can't rule out that Gordy's communications are his. But if they are, then there's something I can rule out:  namely, that Gordy is actually autistic.

That's because, in just a year and a half of practice with productive language, Gordy's verbal exchanges (assuming they're indeed his) are more social, introspective, and empathetic than what we find even among the highest functioning individuals with autism. Gordy--if it's indeed him--is, for example, producing far more socially and emotionally sensitive utterances than what Temple Grandin--one of world's highest functioning individuals with autism--has exhibited after about fifty times as many years of practice:
When Gordy answered several questions from a reporter, he sat quietly, showing no external signs of all that he was feeling. But his answers showed he feels profoundly.
Why did you write your letter?

Meghann [his therapist] suggested it and I’m so glad, it was something my entire being felt compelled to do.

Why did you feel so strongly about it?

I’ve heard too many tragic stories of the mistreatment and mishandling of autistics due to lack of knowledge. It breaks my heart because I know no one is truly at fault.

Are you excited to meet everyone on Friday?

Absolutely, I never expected this but I’m jumping around like a madman inside.

What is your favorite thing to do?

I love learning new things, iPads, I love communicating and typing with this gal on my right.
We'll probably never know what's really going on here. But two things are clear:

1. even if this is a miraculous communication breakthrough, it isn't an autism miracle cure

2. it is highly unprofessional, and highly irresponsible to all who are touched by autism, to report on it as such.


Adelaide Dupont said...

Saw Gordy in the Life and Style section of my Fairfax Media website Friday last [20.5.2016].

Checked the journalist out. [Washington Post Online ... Cody subsequently wrote an article about the aged].

And quite right - this "fifty years of practice".

(Grandin is a very sensitive and affectionate person - remember the Rimland which her mother checked "by the age of five"? And her writings for her marriage and family class in particular in the late 1960s-early 1970s).

And yes, she did/does have "an abrasive attitude".

Which is not in the same ballpark as a lot of the passivity encouraged by the Rapid Prompting Method.

I had known about Growing Kids Therapy for anything up to two years [late 2013-early 2014] and the Vosseller sisters and what they were doing.

At the moment the students there are doing an inclusion-themed performance with a local school. There was significant input and output into the screen writing. DISPATCHES FROM THE ROLLERCOASTER [28 January 2016: Growing Kids Therapy].

I found it interesting that Gordy's cause and his family's cause was police training.

I wondered if the officer Reyes was a relative to Lisa and Phillip Reyes. Phillip uses Rapid Prompting Method.

Jason Travers said...

Oh how much I appreciate these nuggets of information. I've been closely following the return of facilitated communication and this new version, rapid prompting method. Thank you for sharing. And thank you OILF for this post; this bogus story has gone viral and deserves criticism.

Jason Travers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

That article was truly frustrating. There was no thoughtful discussion at all, and it was supposed to be an article, not a FB post.

I sometimes wonder if I get upset about the FC/RPM/. . . just because it is so unscientific (and, something that's unscientific, but harmless, like talking to plants and thinking it makes them grow is not particularly bad). But, these methods aren't harmless. There's clearly an enormous danger in allowing one person to become the conduit for communications of another.