A Brief review of Underestimated : an autism miracle by J. B. Handley

The heart of this book is the question: How non-speaking people with autism can communicate.The authors detail a potential breakthrough method – Spelling to Communicate (S2C).  A brief summary of S2C:a  non-speaking person with autism answers questions by pointing to one letter at a time on a letterboard held by an assistant. The reported results are amazing; non-speaking people with autism are able to communicate complex thoughts for the first time. The authors of the book are a father-son pair, the son Jamison is a non-speaker. It touched me how deeply the entire family wanted the best for Jamison. Reading the book, I realized that if my son couldn’t speak, I would certainly embrace S2C. 

A major  issue with S2C is that it doesn’t land within the domain of  current speech therapy science. The best science I can find to support S2C (cited in the book) is by V.K. Jaswal and colleagues at the University of Virginia. It would be great to see some additional supporting papers using other measurement techniques in the neuroscience toolbox. If the results can be substantiated, S2C would be a paradigm shift for non-speaking people with autism. Below is a reference to the paper in question, I would urge those who are interested in the science of S2C to read it.

Jaswal, V.K., Wayne, A. & Golino, H. Eye-tracking reveals agency in assisted autistic communicationSci Rep 10, 7882 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64553-9

I searched for a paper that would provide a factual counterbalance. This essay by Stuart Vyse provided some cogent discussion of additional experiments that would affirm or deny the usefulness of S2C.

Vyse, S. Of Eye Movements and Autism: The Latest Chapter in a Continuing Controversy.

 I’m an engineer but I have spent a few years educating myself in neuroscience. In particular, I have studied advances in brain-computer research. Locked-in quadriplegic patients regain some movement capabilities using brain-computer systems. The best suggestion I have to validate S2C is to develop a system that takes the human assistant out of the loop after some training.

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