In class, we’re watching the Psychic Claims movie because it illustrates well how to test claims in a scientific manner. Another movie that I sometimes show is about facilitated communication — a term that refers to techniques designed to help people communicate who otherwise would be unable to do so because of a variety of medical problems. The movie is titled “Prisoners of Silence” (from the Frontline series on PBS).
In the 1980s, a form of facilitated communication was introduced in the United States that, it was claimed, allows nonverbal people with severe autism to communicate by supporting their arms or hands wile they type on a letter board. It seemed at first that these people, most of whom were labeled as mentally retarded and completely unable to speak intelligibly, were able to communicate very well with this technique. The movie focuses on children with autism. It seemed that many of the children were able to communicate at advanced levels equal to those of older normal children.
There were many skeptics, however; and scientific studies began to suggest that the “facilitators” (the people helping the children type by holding their arms or hands) actually were doing the typing, although they were not aware that they were doing so. The movie is split into four Youtube videos:
FRONTLINE: Prisoners of Silence (1993)
- Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXw8Ksvyt5Y
- Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19eAMcgn2QU
- Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHqRTDW9Irk
- Part 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PctmzkrJmcg