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School of Education’s Facilitated Communication Institute awarded $500,000 Hussman grant to pursue research, training and documentary film projects
School of Education’s Facilitated Communication Institute awarded $500,000 Hussman grant to pursue research, training and documentary film projectsApril 16, 2008Patrick Farrellpmfarrel@syr.edu
Syracuse University School of Education Dean Douglas Biklen has announced that the Facilitated Communication Institute (FCI), part of the School of Education, has been awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant from the Maryland-based John P. Hussman Foundation to pursue research, training and documentary projects relating to facilitated communication.
The Hussman grant supports research and training on communication strategies for people with autism. The FCI will conduct training and research activities to foster improved understanding of and access to augmentative and alternative communication strategies for people with autism. The project will enlist the help of highly trained facilitators and researchers to execute the proposed projects, which will advance both the practice and knowledge of communication by individuals whose autism significantly affects their ability to communicate.
“While the current public attention on autism and communication seems relatively new, we have been hard at work on these issues for nearly 30 years and have been conducting research on facilitated communication for 19 years,” says Biklen. “The Hussman Foundation grant offers us an opportunity to enlist a team of researchers to conduct new studies and to review findings from the past several decades.” Biklen adds that the grant also provides FCI an opportunity to expand its training efforts nationally and to establish quality standards for communication training.
The research outlined in the grant proposal will be guided by the following core principles:
- Individuals with autism can inform efforts to improve communication practice as well as research on communication. Not being able to speak is not that same as not having anything to say. The institute adopts a “presuming competence” approach to all individuals with whom it works.
- The goal of any training in augmentative and alternative communication, including facilitated communication, is to ensure that the individual with a disability is in control of his or her own communication. People with disabilities have a right to participate fully in mainstream society and all of its institutions, including schools, the workplace, social and recreational settings, and other cultural centers.
- When one intervention or research strategy does not produce the hoped-for results, it is incumbent upon the researcher or professional to seek other ways of accomplishing successful outcomes.
Specific research projects to be undertaken by the FCI under the Hussman grant include conducting a meta-analysis of research on facilitated communication, research on independent typing and speaking while typing, case studies of families that have been successful in having facilitated communication accepted in their children’s school programs, facilitated communication in the post-secondary years, and research to authenticate authorship.
Almost one-third of the grant will be used to support the training of family members in the use of augmentative and alternative communication strategies, which will make these techniques more accessible to lower income families, including families that live in rural areas.
The Hussman grant also provides for the production of broadcast-quality documentary films demonstrating the use of facilitated communication for national and international distribution. The film projects will enable Biklen to partner once again with filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg. Wurzburg won an Academy Award in 1992 for the film “Educating Peter,” on which Biklen was educational advisor. Her film “Autism Is A World,” on which Biklen was co-producer, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004.
The mission of the John P. Hussman Foundation is to provide life-changing assistance through medical research, education and direct aid to vulnerable individuals having urgent needs or significant disabilities. The Hussman Foundation seeks to “tip the balance” in critical areas where research or intervention can significantly alter the course of individual lives and where resources would otherwise not be available. The foundation also helps organizations to develop grant-writing and reporting procedures so they can secure long-term funding from broader sources.
The Facilitated Communication Institute conducts research, training and public education designed to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to be heard and to participate fully in society. Founded in 1992, the institute focuses attention on individuals with developmental disabilities who have traditionally been silenced as a result of their own communication disabilities and by social policy and human service practices that ignore their communication potential.