Evaluation of a Mechanical Hand-Support for Facilitated Communication

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A specially designed hand-support device was evaluated to determine its effectiveness in assisting nonspeaking mentally handicapped children transition from facilitated communication (FC) to independent typing. Six autistic individuals (age range: 5 to 31) participated in the main experiment. All six had been reported to be moderately to highly proficient in the use of FC prior to the study. Pre- and posttraining tasks included pointing to pictures, numbers, and letters as well as copying single words by typing on a keyboard or letterboard. After 8 weeks of training, subjects' ability to point or type on all four tasks was assessed in three different conditions: (a) with an experienced facilitator, (b) independently, and (c) with the mechanical hand-support system. Postassessment measures did not reveal any evidence of independent communication with or without the device. An informal extension of the study, in which four of the original six subjects and three additional subjects were included for 4 additional months, also failed to provide evidence of significant communication.

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