A Touch of Alyricism

Dedicated to the equally fascinating topics of autistic advocacy and the 'sisterly sophistries' of radical gender feminism. Other topics may occasionally crop up. Contactable at alyric@gmail.com

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Polemicist since Grade 8

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why is it UNETHICAL to mention the telepathy of persons with autism?

I was asked this question recently in connection with Facilitated Communication (FC) and armed with some references, I am going to attempt to answer it. Primarily the lack of ethics involves the unproven nature of ESP including telepathy. Secondarily telepathy is being used to caulk the holes in the lack of evidence for independent communication in FC by some participants, generally those of less ability.

The James Randi Foundation has a one million dollar cheque ready for anyone who can demonstrate any form of ESP including telepathy. Notably in the 1990s when Randi first encountered telepathy mixed with FC his first problem as he discovered was to authenticate the authorship of the communication. This he was unable to do and so the search for telepathy became moot in this context. [here]


Authorship authentication is what drives belief in telepathy. Here is one coherent explanation of why the client is expressing the thoughts and feelings of the facilitator; not because the facilitator is the only one communicating but because the client is reading the facilitator’s mind. This can reach ridiculous levels as demonstrated by the online writings of Mary Ann Harrington. Not only does she acknowledge that the facilitator can have enormous though subtle influence over the communication; [here] her thesis is that at a ‘higher level of consciousness’ the two can form a partnership, which is a different entity to either facilitator or client alone, based on telepathy.

Harrington is also a fan of the fairytale school of science. First, assume that fairytales exist. In her case she would like research, a great deal of research to be done, not to demonstrate the reality of telepathy but to explore its practical aspects. As the following list of questions for scientists to pursue suggests, she is firmly of the belief that telepathy exists:[here]

• Do our brain wave frequencies entrain during 'thought joining' creating a sympathetic resonance?

• What areas of the brain are being activated during the exchange? Are brain wave patterns altered during interactions?

• Is 'joining' occurring at a subconscious level? Does it assist in tapping into an emanating universal field of knowledge in addition to the knowledge base of the agent? Does adhering to the vibration of the agent help the brain filter material? Does it help the person with severe autism experience typical perceptual reality through the sensory system of the agent?

• Is it possible that two distinct frequencies blended together form a third frequency? (Think of binaural beats or chemical changes) How does this shared frequency affect communicative output?

• Can 'joining' be compared to the synchronization of coupled oscillators? Does this also help to explain group resonance?

• Does the agent serve as a catalyst, providing the stimulus necessary for the individual to access a response? Are his high-speed fleeting thoughts and chaotic flow being entrained by magnetic signals of the agent? Could these radiations produce image or thought receiving experiences by acting on the temporal lobe?

• Do sub-vocalizations enhance the process?

• Is the right brain being stimulated during the connection? Is that why the language used when paired with an agent is often prosaic?

• Does aligning with the rhythm of the agent help the person perform in a synchronized manner? Does it help the individual attune to the frequency of the earth? Do these signals smooth out circadian rhythm?

• Is the pineal gland primarily hyper active in kids with severe autism causing them to let go of ego based consciousness? Is it hypo active in higher functioning individuals resulting in rigid concrete behavior? Might this also be true of the amygdala? Might pineal gland and/or the amygdala be affected by the joining process?

•What role if any does the reticular activating system play?


But Harrington is not alone in fairytale science. These bona fide researchers ought to know better. Konstantareas and Gravelle conducted some research into the relative contributions from the facilitator of physical, emotional and mental support [1]. Crucially they assumed that the communication was authentic. They found that mental support, that is, the advance knowledge of the mental requirements of the communication task by the facilitator was necessary for successful communication. As the authors note, performances with mental support were around 100% successful, but without this knowledge, performances bottomed out to near zero. A skeptic would not be surprised. All experiments on the independence of the communication found exactly the same thing. The communication is coming from the facilitator not the client in the majority of tested cases.
From what I can see, telepathy looks attractive to some people because it explains the apparent input from the facilitator. This is not an ethical position to take however when the bigger question, the authenticity of telepathy itself remains unanswered. There are other reasons why ascribing telepathic abilities to autistic individuals may not be ethical. Firstly given the experimental history of disconfirming the authenticity of the communication, the field does not need any more controversy. Secondly, autistics deserve the same standards of science as anyone else. Harrington shows they are a long way from gaining the minimum. Thirdly, belief in magical thinking blinds you to other and more realistic possibilities. Everything I have read points to the unusual degree of rapport that develops between client and facilitator. Facilitators are in a much better position than most to point out subtle communicative efforts of their non verbal clients, knowledge that would be invaluable to parents of such children everywhere. Telepathy as the explanation for the rapport is frankly unhelpful as well as unethical.



1. Facilitated Communication: The Contribution of Physical, Emotional and Mental Support, M. Mary Konstantareas and Gregory Gravelle, Autism 1998; 2; 389

18 Comments:

Blogger Arthur Golden said...

Alyric,

I just discovered this blog entry posted nearly a week ago and because it is 3:30 a.m. in the middle of the night here in Israel, I will wait until the morning to try to read it.

I do wish to note that as a matter of PROPER ETHICS, I expected that I would receive this information by private email before you posted it publicly for the world to read.

I also note that no other comments have yet been posted.

Arthur Golden of Jerusalem Israel

5:41 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Arthur you reveved this via email a week ago. I assumed therefore that you had no interest in adding or deleting anything. Perhaps we could rectify this now.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

Alyric,

I did not receive the email although I believe you that you sent it. Did you send it to my now defunct shani account, where any emails sent to it go into a blackhole and do not inform you that I am not receiving it?

Although I have not gotten back to sleep after trying, I will try to sleep now and plan to read your blog entry later. I plan to send you a substantive private email before I post anything publicly.

While I am sorry about this misunderstanding about private emails, I am glad that you did decide to respond to my private emails about this subject. I hope I am still glad after I read what you wrote!


Art

7:09 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

Alyric,

Below is an email sent to you on November 28, 2008 - did you forget about this when you wrote your blog entry?

Art

From: Arthur Golden
To: Alyric
Sent: Friday, November 28, 2008 2:10 PM
Subject: mentioning TELEPATHY in connection with autism and/or FC

[Alyric],

1. Below please find a message that I posted today to two of my groups - autismfc and Autism-Ben_Golden, which is largely based on several emails I sent to you. You should note that I am careful to not mention you nor the actual question I asked you to answer - Why is it UNETHICAL to mention the telepathy of persons with autism?

2. [confidential information deleted]

3. You are welcome to publicly quote anything in the following public message. I do hope that before you do so that you will first respond by private email, especially with any negative comments, to give me a chance to try to clarify matters before you go public.

Sincerely,

Arthur Golden

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/autismfc/message/1752

I just posted the following message #25 to Autism-Ben_Golden and also here for your comments:

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Autism-Ben_Golden/message/25

mentioning TELEPATHY in connection with autism and/or FC (Facilitated Communication)

[go to links above for text of message]

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3:03 PM  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

I believe it is highly unethical NOT to mention telepathy as one of the anomalies of both facilitated communication, a process where the typist requires some type of physical support, in addition to individuals who hit the keys independently but require a facilitator/agent to remain in their proximity and pay attention to the material being typed.

It remains fairy tale science because serious investigators have not become involved and examined all aspects of the phenomenon being displayed. One reason is not enough people have stepped forth to tell the whole truth of their experience. The time to step forth is long overdue.

Be the hundredth monkey!

If you want out know more check out the link below. If you have

http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Mary_Ann_Harrington

10:41 PM  
Blogger Betty said...

Telepathy, more like resonating people, or feeling their emotions and inner thoughts, this is something that autistic people can do. It takes concentration but you just have to be over aware of your environment. Asperger's and autistics can sense people, that's how we know, we feel other's emotions whether they be human, animal or at times even certain objects like crystals. I can compare to cat purring, and the ways animals sense you, your inner nature. It's a higher sense perception, that arises from feeling vibrations. Being able to detect low and high frequencies, is all, like bat hearing. We can hear things that most people would miss, smell things and taste things that other's can't cause our bodies are overly sensitive. We're also highly observant and can read body language and facial expressions quite well. Even if others whisper in an adjacent room, we can still hear the person, it really does suck.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

Betty, it sounds like you have experienced aspects of what I have seen in individuals at the severe end of the spectrum. I thank you for coming forth and explaining the process from your unique perspective. Hopefully it will encourage others to come forth. Many people remain naïve, but it is so important for those like you who know different to share what you have experienced. Not mentioning the impact of telepathy or resonating and the autistic individuals extreme sensitivities to subtle cuing is unconscionable by people who know better.

Thank you Betty! Hope that your comment will inspire others to talk about their own experiences.

Be the hundredth Monkey!

Mary Ann

"We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on."

Richard Feynman

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Anonymous Generic Viagra said...

Only complete jerk can think stuff like that, autism only gives you problems and pain not super powers or anything else.

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Anonymous kamagra said...

We're also highly observant and can read body language and facial expressions quite well. Even if others whisper in an adjacent room, we can still hear the person, it really does suck.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Generic Viagra,

So I'm a complete jerk for not being in pain and for appreciating my talents and skills then?

Wow, you should go adopt an autistic child right now because you'd be just the perfect parent for them. I'm sure your worldview that we are all doomed to endless pain and misery will just lift their confidence right up and get them focused on the right path to success.(sarcasm)

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never had an experince I knew for sure was telepathy, but if I as an indivudal living with these differences in my brain am a telepath that would explain quite a bit. I've never recognized where I thought did come from but on and off until my 20's I've had thoughts pop into my head that I was able to recognize as not being mine. Today I still have this take place but I have to do musclue testing to confirm it.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the paradoxical concept of a group of beings feverishly debating the propriety of discussion of another creatures senses,is funny.
to redefine sense to terms within a more limited sense, is to get up from you chair and return to it.to stuff a giraffe into an ant, so that the ant could experience the leaves in the trees.... is "sense" less.....

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