What is Facilitated Communication in Autism?

FC is a technique that aims to help nonverbal individuals communicate by providing physical support to their hands or arms. In this article, we will explore what FC is, how it works, and the arguments for and against its effectiveness.

Ruben Kesherim
November 17, 2023

What is Facilitated Communication in Autism?

Understanding Facilitated Communication

Facilitated communication is a technique that aims to provide individuals with communication difficulties, such as those with autism, a means to express themselves. This section will provide an introduction to facilitated communication and explore the purpose and goals of this approach.

Introduction to Facilitated Communication

Facilitated communication is a method of communication that involves a facilitator providing support to an individual with limited communication abilities. The facilitator assists the individual in expressing their thoughts, opinions, and needs by physically or verbally helping them to type or point to symbols, letters, or words.

The use of facilitated communication is often seen in individuals with conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities. It is designed to bridge the gap between their thoughts and their ability to independently communicate them.

The Purpose and Goals of Facilitated Communication

The primary purpose of facilitated communication is to empower individuals with communication challenges to have a voice. By providing support, facilitators aim to help individuals express themselves and participate more fully in their daily lives. The goals of facilitated communication include:

  1. Increasing communication: Facilitated communication aims to enhance an individual's ability to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and emotions, enabling them to connect with others and participate in conversations.
  2. Promoting independence: The ultimate goal of facilitated communication is to help individuals develop their communication skills and eventually become more independent in expressing themselves.
  3. Establishing social connections: Facilitated communication aims to foster social connections by enabling individuals to interact with others, build relationships, and engage in social activities.
  4. Supporting educational and vocational opportunities: By facilitating communication, individuals can better participate in educational settings, vocational training, and employment opportunities, leading to improved learning outcomes and increased independence.

It's important to note that facilitated communication has been a topic of controversy and debate within the field of autism and related disabilities. While some individuals and professionals support its use, others have raised concerns about its validity and effectiveness. To learn more about the controversies surrounding facilitated communication, refer to this article on facilitated communication controversy.

In the next section, we will explore how facilitated communication works, including the role of facilitators and the process involved in facilitating communication for individuals with communication challenges.

woman sitting on swing

How Facilitated Communication Works?

Facilitated communication is a method that aims to help individuals with limited communication abilities express themselves. It involves the assistance of a facilitator who supports the individual in generating and communicating their thoughts and ideas. Let's take a closer look at the role of the facilitator and the process of facilitated communication.

The Role of the Facilitator

In facilitated communication, the facilitator plays a crucial role in helping the individual with limited communication skills to express themselves effectively. The facilitator provides physical support, such as hand or arm support, to assist the individual in pointing to letters, words, or symbols on a communication board, keyboard, or other communication devices.

The facilitator's primary responsibility is to create a supportive and enabling environment for the individual. They must establish a rapport and build trust with the individual, as this is essential for effective communication. The facilitator should also have a thorough understanding of the individual's communication abilities and needs.

It's important to note that the facilitator's role is to support the individual's communication, not to influence or control their responses. The facilitator must maintain a neutral stance and avoid providing unintentional cues or prompting the individual's responses. Their goal is to facilitate the expression of the individual's own thoughts and ideas.

The Process of Facilitated Communication

The process of facilitated communication typically involves the following steps:

  1. Positioning: The facilitator and the individual sit facing each other, ensuring clear visibility and access to the communication device. This positioning allows for effective communication and physical support, if necessary.
  2. Support: The facilitator provides physical support, such as hand or arm support, to assist the individual in pointing to letters, words, or symbols on the communication device. The level of support may vary depending on the individual's needs and abilities.
  3. Prompting and Feedback: The facilitator may provide gentle prompts or cues to help the individual initiate or continue communication. They may also offer feedback and encouragement to reinforce the individual's efforts.
  4. Expression: The individual communicates by pointing, typing, or using any other method that suits their abilities and the communication device being used. The facilitator supports and facilitates this process, ensuring that the individual's messages are accurately conveyed.

It's worth noting that facilitated communication has been a topic of controversy and debate within the field of autism. While some supporters believe it can be a valuable tool for individuals with limited communication skills, others question its effectiveness and express concerns about potential facilitator influence.

Understanding the role of the facilitator and the process of facilitated communication is essential for parents of children with autism who are considering this method. It's important to seek guidance from professionals experienced in facilitated communication and to make informed decisions based on the individual needs and circumstances. For information on facilitated communication training, you can refer to this article on facilitated communication training.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Facilitated Communication

When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of facilitated communication, there are ongoing controversies and debates surrounding this method. However, it is essential to examine the available research and studies to gain a comprehensive understanding.

Controversies and Debates Surrounding Facilitated Communication

Facilitated communication has faced significant controversies and debates since its inception. Critics argue that the technique may be prone to unintentional influence by the facilitator rather than genuinely reflecting the thoughts and communication abilities of the individual. Concerns have been raised about the potential for facilitators to inadvertently guide or control the messages being conveyed.

These controversies have led to skepticism and skepticism surrounding facilitated communication. It is crucial to approach the subject with an open mind, considering various perspectives and evidence-based information.

Research and Studies on Facilitated Communication

Numerous research studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of facilitated communication. While some studies have reported positive outcomes, it is important to critically evaluate the methodology and findings of each study.

Research suggests that facilitated communication may have the potential to provide a means of communication for individuals with limited verbal abilities, including those with autism. However, it should be noted that the evidence supporting its effectiveness is not universally accepted by the scientific community.

To make informed decisions, it is recommended to review the existing research and studies on facilitated communication. This will help gain insight into the current understanding and limitations of this communication method.

Evaluating the effectiveness of facilitated communication is an ongoing process, and it is important to consider the individual needs and circumstances of each person. Consulting with professionals and experts in the field can provide valuable guidance and support.

Who Can Benefit from Facilitated Communication?

Facilitated communication has shown potential benefits for individuals with various conditions and populations. Let's explore how facilitated communication can be beneficial for individuals with autism and other conditions.

Facilitated Communication and Autism

Facilitated communication has gained attention as a potential communication method for individuals with autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. Some individuals with autism may experience challenges in expressing themselves verbally or through traditional means of communication.

Facilitated communication aims to provide a means of communication for individuals who struggle with expressive language. The process involves a facilitator, who supports the individual in typing or pointing to symbols on a communication device. The facilitator assists in overcoming physical, motor, or language barriers that may hinder independent communication.

It is important to note that facilitated communication is a controversial topic within the autism community. While some have reported positive outcomes, there is ongoing debate regarding the validity and effectiveness of this approach.

Other Conditions and Populations That Can Benefit

Although facilitated communication is often associated with autism, it has also been explored as a communication method for individuals with other conditions and populations. These may include individuals with:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Each individual is unique, and the effectiveness of facilitated communication may vary. It is crucial to consider the specific needs, abilities, and limitations of each individual when exploring communication options.

When implementing facilitated communication, it is important to ensure that facilitators receive proper training and have the necessary qualifications to support individuals effectively.

By understanding the potential benefits of facilitated communication for individuals with autism and other conditions, caregivers and professionals can make informed decisions regarding communication strategies. It is essential to consider the individual's unique needs and preferences, as well as engage in ongoing research and discussions within the field of communication interventions.

Best Practices and Considerations

When it comes to facilitated communication, there are important best practices and considerations to ensure its effectiveness and ethical implementation. This section focuses on two key aspects: training and qualifications for facilitators and ensuring ethical implementation of facilitated communication.

Training and Qualifications for Facilitators

Facilitated communication requires individuals who are well-trained and possess the necessary qualifications to support individuals with communication challenges. Facilitators should undergo comprehensive training programs that equip them with the skills and knowledge to effectively assist individuals in expressing their thoughts and ideas.

Training for facilitators typically involves learning about the principles and techniques of facilitated communication, understanding the specific needs of individuals with communication difficulties, and developing strategies to support their communication. It is essential for facilitators to stay up-to-date with the latest research and best practices in the field. Ongoing professional development and training workshops can further enhance their skills and expertise.

To ensure the quality of facilitators, organizations and institutions that provide facilitated communication services often have specific requirements for training and qualifications. These requirements may include completion of formal coursework, practical experience, and adherence to ethical guidelines. It is important for parents and individuals seeking facilitation services to inquire about the qualifications and training of potential facilitators to ensure they meet the necessary standards.

Ensuring Ethical Implementation of Facilitated Communication

Ethical considerations play a crucial role in the implementation of facilitated communication. It is essential to ensure the well-being and rights of individuals with communication challenges are protected throughout the process. Here are some key ethical considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Informed Consent: Prior consent should be obtained from individuals or their legal guardians before implementing facilitated communication. They should be fully informed about the benefits, limitations, and potential risks associated with the technique.
  2. Respecting Individual Autonomy: Facilitators should always prioritize the individual's autonomy and respect their choices and preferences. It is important to create an environment that fosters open and respectful communication.
  3. Avoiding Prompting or Influencing: Facilitators should refrain from influencing or leading the individual's responses during facilitated communication sessions. Their role is to provide support and assist with the mechanics of communication, rather than directing or guiding the content of the communication.
  4. Ongoing Evaluation and Monitoring: Regular evaluation and monitoring of facilitated communication sessions are essential to assess its effectiveness and address any concerns or challenges that may arise. This helps ensure that the technique is being implemented ethically and in the best interest of the individual.

By adhering to these best practices and ethical considerations, facilitated communication can be a valuable tool for individuals with communication challenges, including those with autism. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of both the benefits and limitations of facilitated communication, as well as the ongoing debates and controversies surrounding it.


Is facilitated communication appropriate for everyone with autism?

No, facilitated communication is not appropriate for everyone with autism. The technique is generally recommended only for individuals who have some form of motor skill or coordination but are unable to communicate effectively through speech.

What are the potential risks of using facilitated communication?

The use of facilitated communication can lead to false or misleading communication, as the facilitator may unconsciously influence what the individual types or points to on the keyboard. Additionally, there is a risk that the individual may become overly dependent on the facilitator and lose their ability to communicate independently.

Are there alternative methods for helping nonverbal individuals with autism communicate?

Yes, there are alternative methods for helping nonverbal individuals with autism communicate. These include augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices such as picture exchange communication systems (PECS), speech-generating devices (SGDs), and sign language. It's important to work with a qualified speech-language pathologist to determine which method is most appropriate for each individual.


Facilitated communication is a technique that aims to help nonverbal individuals with autism communicate. While some individuals have reported positive outcomes from using FC, scientific studies have failed to demonstrate its effectiveness. Critics of FC argue that the method is based on flawed assumptions about the abilities of individuals with autism and can lead to false or misleading communication. As a caregiver or family member of an individual with autism, it is important to be aware of the debate surrounding FC and to consult with professionals before using the technique.


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