Friday, January 06, 2012

ABC 20-20 airs report on prosecution of parents in Michigan whose autistic kid had learned "facilitated communication" and who was duped into making accusations


Tonight, ABC 20-20 presented a harrowing story (“Miracle or Nightmare?”), by Thomas Berman and Jonathan Balthasar, about the prosecution of the father in the Wendrow family in the suburbs of Detroit for alleged abuse after their autistic daughter’s messages through “facilitated communications” were misconstrued as accusations.  ABC had reported on “FC” on Primetime Live back in 1992. The child types his thoughts when the therapist or parent or facilitator holds the child’s hand in a certain way.

The technical explanation for law enforcement therapy was something called “savior complex” which was demonstrated in the broadcast. 


Aislinn did very well, able to read at grade level in eighth grade.  The police charges were made after a relatively untrained facilitator said that Aislinn had communicated allegations of abuse, at school.  But then investigators (or “forensic interviewers”) incorrectly got more accusations.  Eventually it would become apparent that Aislinn’s communications even in ordinary matters were not her own as much as teachers had thought they were.  FC was not working the way it had been touted.  She really can’t spell or express thoughts; the facilitators were making up answers, as on a Ouija board.

The 13 year old brother was actually interviewed by West Bloomfield police, who tried to manipulate him into lying to prove the prosecution’s case.  The police actually lied to the boy.

A judge was able to determine the police charges as incorrect with special tests, where she communicated jibberish.

There is a lawsuit against the police, but it is very difficult to prove police misconduct at the standard required to win a civil judgment. 

An earlier 2001 film, “Just Ask My Children” (with Gregory Smith, directed by Arvin Brown) showed how overzealous law enforcement (this time in California, egged on by prosecutors with their own political careers “at stake”) jeopardizes parents.

One can be cynical about these cases.  Having children involves big risks.  No matter many people in the modern individualistic world decide not to have children.  Collectively, that could destroy society. 

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