DAIL's Commitment to Communication Choice and Facilitated Communication

History

For the last quarter century, Vermont has maintained a statewide communication network. The fundamental tenet of the Vermont Communication Task Force is that “all persons are competent, can communicate, and must receive the support, training and technology needed to actively participate in all aspects of life.” The Task Force, along with two regional communication specialists, provide guidance, training, technical assistance, research monitoring and policy recommendations at three levels of the developmental disabilities services system: individual, provider and state. It is this multi-faceted and targeted approach to communication in general, and facilitated communication in particular, that helps ensure Vermonters are supported to communicate using the method(s) of their choice.

Facilitated Communication (FC) was first introduced in Vermont in the early 1990s. From the onset, Vermont developed practice and validation guidelines (1994) and provided local and statewide training and technical assistance to help assure the necessary supports are in place for the effective and appropriate use of FC.

Vermont assisted in the development of comprehensive Facilitated Communication Training Standards developed by what is now the Institute on Communication and Inclusion at Syracuse University. More recently, new Vermont Facilitated Communication Guidelines were adopted by the Vermont Agency of Human Services. An important component of the new guidelines is the emphasis on training, which is crucial to the effective use of FC. It is noteworthy that, throughout these twenty-five years, the specific standards outlining best practices in facilitated communication training has not substantively changed. 

Right to Choose

It has always been the assertion of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) that individuals have the right to choose their method(s) of communication. With that right comes the responsibility of their support team to assure the appropriate evaluations; acquisition of proper communication devices, as needed; training and technical assistance; data collection and monitoring; and follow-along supports take place.

Communication Bill of Rights National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities

Presumption of Competence

It is especially important that difficulties with communication not be taken as evidence of intellectual competence. Although a person may be unable to demonstrate what she or he thinks and feels, or may have great difficulty being understood, she or he should not be further handicapped by the attitudes of others.

“Don’t underestimate me.  I know more than I say, think more than I speak,
and notice more than you realize.”  - Tracy Thresher

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