Is an illusion of contact with the brain-damaged better than none at all?

Facilitated communication is a technique that promises to change the way patients with autism, mental retardation, muscle disease or brain damage communicate. Many people are trapped inside their bodies, unable to connect to the outside world. Facilitators work with these people, steadying their hands while they type or using devices to get their inner thoughts out.

The problem is, according to studies, the technique doesn't work. Critics liken it to the ideomotor response, where the facilitator is unconsciously helping the patient, similar to the mechanism at work with a Ouija board.

Yet many continue to believe because they desperately want it to work. A parent has said that even if it's an illusion, it's an illusion they want to continue.

Rom Houben (pictured), a 46-year old man presumed comatose and in a vegetative state for 23 years, was a hopeful recipient of this technique in November 2009.

Houben wrote: "I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me. It was my second birth."

But further tests by his doctors revealed, in February 2010, that he was not the one writing, and he was unable to communicate.

Read more at Psychology Today>> and the Guardian>>

More detail on facilitated communication from the American Psychological Association, from a 2003 article>>

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