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Recent Projects

As an active research center, the ICI is committed to on-going scholarship that will lead to a greater understanding of the interaction between communication and inclusion and that will help others use supported typing to gain access to a rich and meaningful life.

We are nearing completion on five research projects generously supported by the John Hussman Foundation. Brief summaries are provided below. Several of these studies are currently under review for publication. We will provide access to the full texts as soon as they become available.

Mothers’ Life Stories Research Project

The perspectives of families and, particularly, mothers of individuals who type to communicate, have been largely absent from the literature. Research should resist policies that marginalize groups and individuals and should instead create opportunities for individuals’ participation and relationships and guarantee the right to be heard and respected as “full citizens, workers, classmates, consumers, artists, worshippers, family members, friends, and valued human beings"(Kliewer, and Biklen, 2000, p. 187). Understanding these mothers’ stories is essential to understanding the larger historical, social, familial, and even educational contexts that influence and effect people who type to communicate and their families. With a better understanding of these social contexts (schools, families, friends, professional, general public) we can hope to improve support and opportunities for the families of people who type to communicate. Based on the present context the following research questions have been raised: What are the social positions of mothers of individuals that use supported communication? How do they perform their identity and juggle with the normative expectations from society? How do these mothers frame their lives and narrate their experiences? What is the contextual meaning of being a mother of a child or adult that types to communicate?

Facilitated Communication in the Postsecondary Years

This study uses interviews and observations to explore the use of Facilitated Communication in higher education settings across the U.S. We focus on both the larger theoretical issues related to the use of supported typing in higher education, particularly the meaning they make of the experience and the logistical and practical considerations for supporting facilitated communication in college settings. The research team considers student experiences and the supports necessary to make meaningful academic and social inclusion in higher education a reality. The research questions included:

  • What are the experiences of FC users attending colleges and universities across the United States?
  • What are the networks of support that enable and sustain participation?
  • What classroom structures and strategies best support active engagement in the academic and social experiences of college?

"'Moving quietly through the door of opportunity': Perspectives of College Students who Type to Communicate", the first article from research on this topic, has now been relesead. Access to full text coming soon.

Ashby, C.E. & Causton-Theoharis, J. (2012). "Moving quietly through the door of opportunity": Perspectives of college students who type to communicate. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(2), 261–282.

Message Passing and Other Means of Demonstrating Authorship

As not all individuals can be expected to achieve the ability to type without physical support or to speak before and as typing, they nevertheless require a means of demonstrating that they are authors of their typing. Thus it is important to identify alternative ways of confirming an individual’s ability to author his or her own words. Given that many critics of the facilitated communication method rely on the results of quasi-experimental tests to validate or invalidate supported typing, this study will attempt to demonstrate how message passing can be taught as a skill and then assessed, as in a quasi-experimental design. The primary goals of this study are to describe the various ways that individuals “pass messages,” and to investigate whether these skills can be taught to others. Thus, this study is guided by the following research questions: 
  • What are the different ways that FC users can validate their communication by message-passing? 
  • What contexts and supports are necessary to pass messages and/or to learn to pass messages? 
  • How can FC users (and facilitators) learn to pass messages (develop the skill of message-passing)?

Facilitated Communication and School Sustainability

Researchers in this project identified schools and districts where support for facilitated communication has been on-going. The study included districts where multiple students have used facilitated communication over three or more years. The study sought to include, especially, schools where use of and support for facilitated communication is fully integrated into students’ programs and where there is a system in place for on-going training and support. The study asks a range of questions, including:  
  • What supports are necessary for this to occur? How are those supports institutionalized and continued over the multiple years? 
  • What are the characteristics and beliefs of school district administrators and personnel in districts that are supportive of facilitated communication use in schools?
  • Conversely, what are the barriers to facilitated communication from an administrative or school district perspective? What concerns do district personnel raise when use of using facilitated communication is not supported?

Research on Independent Typing and Speaking While Typing

This study involves observing and carefully documenting, including videotaping, individuals who have developed the ability to type without physical support or to speak before and as they type. This is an expansion on earlier work, notably research by Broderick and Kasa-Hendrickson (2001) and Biklen (2005). The study focuses on questions such as: 
  • What does independence look like? How do facilitated communication users define and make sense of independence?
  • What strategies have proven most successful in moving toward independence?
  • What supports have been effective or necessary in the process?

Meta-Analysis of Research on Facilitated Communication

This project focuses primarily on the question of authorship, critically examining research designed to demonstrate the reliability and validity of facilitation as a method of augmentative and alternative communication. Considerable research has been conducted on facilitation that supports the method, while a number of studies question its validity. This quantitative meta-analysis and qualitative research review provides a useful context for each of the other funded research projects and is needed by parents, practitioners (e.g. teachers, speech therapists), and school leaders who seek to implement facilitated communication training. Often, before being allowed to introduce a training program or support services, parents as well as practitioners and school leaders must convince others that the method has merit and a sounds research base.