The problem with facilitated communication is the inability for an observer to know conclusively that the words and sentences of a non-verbal autistic individual are from the individual or the person assisting the autistic individual. Most videos of facilitated communication show the facilitator taking a very active role in spelling and forming the sentences without any cooperation from the autistic individual. The operational definition of this study is the manipulation free facilitated communication with self supported arm rests and verbal acknowledgement of letters pressed.
To eliminate this potential influence required two components add to the facilitated communication devices. First was to develop an arm rest that the autistic individual would place either arm on that will stop the flowing movement of the hand. The autistic individual had more control of their hand and arm. The individual moved their hand over the entire arm rest to hit any key that they desire to press while still supporting their arm. The facilitator was not able to touch the autistic individual’s hands or arms. In addition, the facilitator was only able to say the letter or sound of the letter when pressed by the autistic individual. If the individual was trying to say ‘good morning’ each letter of the word would be spoken individually.
The autistic individual was found to be unable to answer the questions on his own or to communicate his needs without the facilitator choosing his letters and words for him. He was not able to answer questions, nor initiate any legitimate communication via the device. When asked simple questions regarding favorite foods or items, the autistic individual was unable to answer or hit the letters suggested. The only manner in which he could answer the questions was when the facilitator manipulated his arm and hand.