Rosemary Crossley

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Rosemary Crossley
Born (1945-05-06) 6 May 1945 (age 74)
Known forFacilitated communication
Notable work
Annie's Coming Out

Rosemary Crossley AM (born 1945) is an Australian author and advocate for 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 – she received membership in the Order of Australia in , 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] However, facilitated communication is pseudoscience, and has been called ineffective and harmful by many psychologists, governments, and psychological organisations.[3][4][5][6][7][8] In particular, it has failed controlled tests where the facilitator, supposed to aid the autistic person to communicate, is not aware what the answer should be. Experts conclude that the facilitator is directing the movement of the disabled person to the answer they expect to see.[9][10][11][12][13] 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][14]

Authorship and advocacy[edit]

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

Crossley is a co-author of Annie's Coming Out,[15] a story about a girl named Annie McDonald who Crossley claimed had learned to communicate through facilitated communication. 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 depicts how Crossley claimed to have developed facilitated communication. Widespread controversy has continued to accompany its use in the autistic population,[16] 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.[17] Some have questioned whether McDonald was actually communicating through Crossley.[18]

Crossley went on to establish DEAL (Dignity, Education, Advocacy, Language) Communication Centre,[19] 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.[20] Bilken and his colleagues and students reported encouraging developments in the field of autism and speech using facilitated communication,[21][22] though experts have criticised the methodology of these studies and the continued promotion of facilitated communication by Bilken.[20]

Crossley later wrote Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People Without Voices[23] 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.[24]

Crossley has defended professor Anna Stubblefield from sexual assault charges against a man identified as D.J. with severe cerebral palsy, by claiming that he could answer yes/no questions independently. Mark Sherry, a professor of sociology, claimed that Stubblefield manufactured assessment results in a way that still amounts to facilitated communication.[25][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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Goldacre, Dr. Ben (2009-12-05). "Making contact with a helping hand". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  5. ^ Palfreman, Jon (October 19, 1993). "Frontline: Prisoners of Silence". WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  6. ^ "Criticized method prohibited by school". SvD Nyheter. 23 December 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  7. ^ 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. 6 (1): 36–57. doi:10.1080/17489539.2012.704738.
  8. ^ Lilienfeld; et al. "Why debunked autism treatment fads persist". Science Daily. Emory University. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  9. ^ Wisely & Brasier. "Sex abuse claims in Wendrow case fall apart in court". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Auerbach, David, "Facilitated Communication is a Cult that Won't Die", (article), "", 12 November 2012
  12. ^ Hall, Genae A. (1993). "Facilitator Control as Automatic Behavior: A Verbal Behavior Analysis". The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. 11: 89–97. doi:10.1007/bf03392890. PMC 2748555. PMID 22477083.
  13. ^ 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. 50 (9): 750–765. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.50.9.750.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Annie's Coming Out
  16. ^ Biklen, Douglas. (2005). "Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone". New York, New York: University Press.
  18. ^ Rule, Andrew, "More Doubts Over Disability Miracle" (article). "Morning Herald", 18 May 2012
  19. ^ DEAL (Dignity, Education, Advocacy, Language) Communication Centre
  20. ^ a b Editorial Board (2016-04-12). "Syracuse University's reinforcement of facilitated communication inexcusable, concerning". The Daily Orange. Syracuse University. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People Without Voices
  24. ^ ...(1990, August). Keynote Speaker Spotlight: Rosemary Crossley. "TASH Newsletter", 3.
  25. ^ Flaherty, Colleen. "Professor accused of raping disabled man sees her convictions overturned". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  26. ^ Sherry, Mark (17 August 2016). "Facilitated communication, Anna Stubblefield and disability studies". Disability & Society. 31 (7): 974–982. doi:10.1080/09687599.2016.1218152. Retrieved 15 July 2019.

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