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Linguistic Interactions of Autistic Boys in Different Facilitated Contexts

An important area of autism research concerns the evaluation of communicative abilities and the effectiveness of interventions aimed at promoting these competences. Different methods have been developed to improve verbal language or provide alternative or augmentative instruments of communication. Facilitated Communication (FC) is a technique for providing support to subjects with poor or inexistent verbal abilities as they convey typed messages. After a long and lively debate on the validity of FC, in recent years specific guidelines have been created to allow a progressive increase in the facilitated subjects’ initiatives and spontaneous pointing, with the aim of total independency. This research project focused on linguistic abilities of autistic people, with particular reference to analysis of stylistic, semantic and lexical peculiarities of written texts produced with the support of FC. Psycholinguistic analysis could contribute indirectly to the debate on the authorship and effectiveness of the facilitated production. Furthermore, it could represent an opportunity to understand autistic people’s subjectivity.

This study analysed the linguistic interactions of autistic boys – who need a minimal level of physical support – in different facilitated contexts, with the aim of exploring:

  • the presence of original expressions and typical linguistic characteristics, potentially indicative of the relative linguistic independence and authorship of the facilitated writings;
  • the presence of semantic and stylistic peculiarities, with particular reference to the psychological lexicon of people with autism;
  • the nature and development of the dialogue between the facilitated and facilitator and the influence of the facilitator’s characteristics on the facilitated language in general and in particular on the use of the psychological lexicon.