Rosemary Crossley

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Rosemary Crossley AM (born 1945) is an Australian author and advocate for disability rights and facilitated communication, a discredited[1] technique in which a disabled person with difficulty communicating is encouraged to spell out messages with a keyboard or letter board, while their hand is held and helped to move by a facilitator.

Crossley is a controversial figure in the field of autism and disabilities. She has been praised by some, and in her native Australia she is director of the Anne McDonald Centre near Melbourne for people with little or no functional speech; in 1984, the film Annie's Coming Out was made about her work with her first student, Anne McDonald.[2][3] However, facilitated communication is considered pseudoscientific, and is called ineffective or actively harmful by psychologists and governments.[4][5][6][7][8][9] In particular, it has often failed controlled tests where the facilitator, supposed to aid the autistic person to communicate, is not aware what the answer should be, leading experts to suggest that the facilitator is directing the movement of the disabled person to the answer they expect to see.[10][11][12][13][14] Organisations such as American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Association for Behavior Analysis have stated that facilitated communication is not a valid technique.[1][15]

Authorship and advocacy[edit]

The Anne McDonald Centre, a centre for FC use in Melbourne directed by Crossley.

Crossley is the co-author, with the late Anne McDonald, of Annie's Coming Out,[16] the story of McDonald's purported breakthrough to communication and her release from a large Australian care home for children and adults with severe disabilities. McDonald's story went on to be made into a film titled Annie's Coming Out (also called A Test Of Love) in 1984 starring Angela Punch McGregor and directed by Gil Brealey. The screenplay for the film was written by Crossley's partner, Chris Borthwick, with both Crossley and McDonald credited as contributing writers. The film won Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Annie's Coming Out also portrays how Crossley developed the form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) now known as facilitated communication or (as Crossley herself prefers) facilitated communication training. Facilitated communication training is today widely used by people with a variety of communication handicaps. Widespread controversy has continued to accompany its use in the autistic population,[17] with a number of peer reviewed scientific studies have concluded that the language output attributed to the clients is directed or systematically determined by the therapists who provide facilitated assistance.[18] Some have questioned whether McDonald was actually communicating through Crossley.[19]

Crossley went on to establish DEAL (Dignity, Education, Advocacy, Language) Communication Centre,[20] training a wide range of functionally non-verbal people in the use of communication techniques with family, friends and carers. Douglas Biklen of Syracuse University, Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation, visited her in Australia, and went on to popularise facilitated communication in the US.[21] Bilken and his colleagues and students reported encouraging developments in the field of autism and speech using facilitated communication,[22][23] though experts have criticised the methodology of these studies and the continued promotion of facilitated communication by Bilken.[21]

Crossley later wrote Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People Without Voices[24] about the experiences of several people who are purported to have first acquired communication through this technique. She was the Keynote Conference Speaker at the International Association of Severe Disabilities in 1990.[25]

Rosemary Crossley has a PhD from Victoria University, Australia and is a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).[26]


  • The Dole Cookbook (Collingwood: Outback, 1978) ISBN 0-86888-219-4
  • Annie's Coming Out (Penguin Books, 1980) ISBN 0-14-005688-2
  • Facilitated Communication Training (Teachers College Press, 1994) ISBN 0-8077-3327-X
  • Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People Without Voices (1997) ISBN 0-525-94156-8


  1. ^ a b Facilitated Communication: Sifting the Psychological Wheat from the Chaff. American Psychological Association. June 13, 2016.
  2. ^ "Our Director - Rosemary Crossley". Anne McDonald Centre. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  3. ^ Veness, Kirsten. "ABC transcript". Verbal communication support called in to question. ABC. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  4. ^ Jordan, Jones & Murray. "Educational Interventions for Children With Autism: A Literature Review of Recent And Current Research" (PDF). Institute of Education. DfEE. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  5. ^ Goldacre, Dr. Ben. "Making contact with a helping hand". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  6. ^ Palfreman, Jon (October 19, 1993). "Frontline: Prisoners of Silence". WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  7. ^ "Criticized method prohibited by school". SvD Nyheter. 23 December 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  8. ^ Todd, James T. (13 July 2012). "The moral obligation to be empirical: Comments on Boynton's 'Facilitated Communication - what harm it can do: Confessions of a former facilitator'". Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention. Taylor & Francis Group. 6 (1): 36–57. doi:10.1080/17489539.2012.704738. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  9. ^ Lilienfeld; et al. "Why debunked autism treatment fads persist". Science Daily. Emory University. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  10. ^ Wisely & Brasier. "Sex abuse claims in Wendrow case fall apart in court". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  11. ^ Daniel Engber (October 20, 2015). "The Strange Case of Anna Stubblefield". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 21, 2015. ...the judge ruled that facilitated communication failed New Jersey’s test for scientific evidence.
  12. ^ Auerbach, David,"Facilitated Communication is a Cult that Won't Die", (article), "", 12 November 2012
  13. ^ Hall, Genae A. (1993). "Facilitator Control as Automatic Behavior: A Verbal Behavior Analysis" (PDF). The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. 11: 89–97. doi:10.1007/bf03392890. PMC 2748555. PMID 22477083.
  14. ^ Jacobson, John W.; Mulick, James A.; Schwartz, Allen A. (September 1995). "A History of Facilitated Communication: Science, Pseudoscience, and Antiscience: Science Working Group on Facilitated Communication". American Psychologist. American Psychological Association,Inc. 50 (9): 750–765. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.50.9.750.
  15. ^ Riggott, Julie (Spring–Summer 2005). "Pseudoscience in Autism Treatment: Are the News and Entertainment Media Helping or Hurting?". Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. 4 (1): 58–60.
  16. ^ Annie's Coming Out
  17. ^ Biklen, Douglas. (2005). "Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone". New York, New York: University Press.
  19. ^ Rule, Andrew, "More Doubts Over Disability Miracle" (article). "Morning Herald", 18 May 2012
  20. ^ DEAL (Dignity, Education, Advocacy, Language) Communication Centre
  21. ^ a b Editorial Board. "Syracuse University's reinforcement of facilitated communication inexcusable, concerning". The Daily Orange. Syracuse University. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  22. ^ Biklen, D., Morton, M.W., Saha, S.N., Duncan, J., Gold, D., Hardardottir, M., Karna, E., O'Connor, S., & Rao, S. (1991). "I amn not a utistivc on thje typ" (I/m not Autistic on the Typewriter"). "Disability, Handicap and Society", 6(3): 161-180.
  23. ^ Biklen, D., Morton, M.W., Gold, D., Berrigan, C. & Swaminathan, S. (1992). Facilitated communication: Implications for individuals with autism. "Topics in Language Disorders", 12(4): 1-28.
  24. ^ Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People Without Voices
  25. ^ ...(1990, August). Keynote Speaker Spotlight: Rosemary Crossley. "TASH Newsletter", 3.
  26. ^ Australian Honours, 1986 citation "in recognition of service to those with severe communication disabilities"

External links[edit]