CHAPTER 10:
DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES AND
THE PARANORMAL
JOHN W. JACOBSON
&
JAMES A. MULICK
Presented by:
Paula Gaglioti
Caldwell College
AUTHORS
John W. Jacobson: 1949-2004. Was a fellow of the
American Psychological Association’s Divisions
25 (Behavior Analysis), 33 (Mental Retardation
and Developmental Disabilities).
 He was also a member of the American
Association on Mental Retardation, and the
International Association for the Scientific Study
of Intellectual Disabilities.
 BCBA
 “an outspoken advocate for evidence-based
practice”

AUTHORS
James A. Mulick: child psychologist at Columbus
Children’s Hospital, in Columbus OH.
 Also a professor at Ohio State University.
 Published articles in journals such as: Psychology
in Mental Retardation and Developmental
Disabilities, Behavioral Interventions and
Journal of Child and Family Studies.

THE PARANORMAL
90% of Americans believe in one or more
supernatural or paranormal phenomena.
 It is culturally typical in society to hold at least
some belief in the supernatural or paranormal.
 Women are more likely to report supernatural or
paranormal experiences then men.
 However, no scientific support for the existence of
paranormal phenomena.

YET THERE ARE STILL BELIEVERS!
Existence of paranormal phenomena is a matter
of pure faith.
 Differentiation between faith in everyday life and
the paranormal.
 This separation is provided by psychologists and
sociologists.

1) Religiosity
 2) Spirituality
 3) Spiritualism
 4) Faith in paranormal or psi

RELIGIOSITY
Engaging in prayer
 Attending religious services
 Practicing certain rituals
 Accepting certain doctrines
 Retelling certain stories

SPIRITUALITY & SPIRITUALISM
Spirituality: Belief in a divine entity
 Spiritualism: Belief in spirits, contacting the
deceased through mediums and séances, and
psychic healing.
 Some aspects of spiritualism consistent with
some aspects of paranormal.

Belief in undetected and unmeasured field energy
within or about the human body
 Telepathy: knowledge of others’ thoughts
 Clairvoyance: visualization of objects of events not
within physical view
 Psychokinesis: ability to move objects through
exertion of will

SPIRITUALISM VS. PARANORMAL


Spiritualism implies a religious component to
beliefs which may or may not be consistent with
traditional organized religious faiths.
Paranormal beliefs may or may not be
rationalized or characterized on the basis of
individual religious faith.
FAITH
Mere belief or trust in some agency or source of
information.
 We act on this form of faith in everyday tasks.
 We trust the people who inform us, thus we take
certain action which leads to a certain outcome
and we perform accordingly.
 Gather information from: family members,
authority figures, newspaper, television, peers
etc..

FAITH CONT’D
Trust, belief and faith form intricate mutually
reinforcing systems of guidelines, some in the
form of laws and rules and some in unspoken
patterns of compliance.
 Matters of faith affect our decision making


Our ability to follow advice and rules that we are
given or that we construct ourselves from the basis of
learning from our own experiences with other people
and information.
FAITH IN CONVENTIONAL RELIGION &
DISABILITY

Parents of children with autism or mental
retardation find hope and comfort in their
religion.
“In despair we and others sought God to remove the
Down syndrome from him. We will pray for this all
our remaining days, or until God or one of His
disciples brings forth Jacob’s healing, or until
Jacob tells us to stop. We also sought out, through
the internet, other parents of Down syndrome (DS)
to pray with us, but instead found a lot of
Christians who believed God had put this on their
children and that we need to embrace DS as our
friend” (Cardon Household, 2002, p.1)
FAITH, DISABILITY & THE INTERNET
Internet reports many cases of miraculous cures
and substantial benefits from conventional
medical or health intervention.
 Internet also lists evidence between paranormal
phenomena and developmental disability.
 In 1993, a series of messages exchanged on
group.bit.listserv.autism contained this
statement


“Believing that telepathy comes from God isn’t knew
either. I think so – but you don’t have to think
anything at all about God to believe in telepathy. The
link between autistic children and their parents…is
extraordinary, we all know that. So I have no trouble
believing in telepathic aspect of autism”
FAITH, DISABILITY & THE INTERNET
CONT’D

In 1996, messages on alt.paranormal and
bit.listsev.tbi-support wrote “that traumatic
brain injury frees up or releases paranormal
powers”
In 1999, a discussion on bit.list.seve.autism
included the use of astrology (which is a
spiritualistic practice) as a basis for predicting,
prenatally, that a child will have autism or mental
retardation.
RESEARCH ON THE PARANORMAL
Mixed reviews:
 Milton and Wiseman (2001) claimed to show
substantial evidence in paranormal abilities by
use of the Ganzfeld Apparatus.


Ganzfeld apparatus – insert one’s head into the
apparatus which presents a featureless visual field
with rounded surfaces all at equal distances from
one’s eye.
Musch and Ehrenberg (2002), believers [in the
paranormal] were more likely to underestimate the
likelihood of coincidental or chance events compared to
non believers.
SO?!
To summarize thus far: belief in paranormal
phenomena remains very difficult to predict on
the individual level.
 However we can say that there is a general
tendency to believe in things.

THE PARANORMAL & DEVELOPMENTAL
DISABILITIES

Autism and the Paranormal

Telepathy
“common ability in autistic individuals” (Georgiana
Institute, 2002)
 “noted in specific instances to occur in children with autism”
(Auerbach, 1994; B.A. Bear Autism Foundation, 2002).




Savant Syndrome
“refers to presence of remarkable, usually very specific
skills among people with intellectual disability and often
both intellectual disability and autism. These skills
commonly entail drawing, musical performance or
arithmetic feats” (Down, 1887)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR36jrx_L44
THE PARANORMAL & DEVELOPMENTAL
DISABILITIES

Facilitated Communication

a technique by which a “facilitator” provides physical
and other supports in an attempt to assist a person
with a significant communication disability to point
to pictures, objects, printed letters and words, or to a
keyboard.

“Link” between facilitated communication and
telepathy.

“shortly after facilitation begins, and the initial concerns
have been dealt with, facilitators often report that their
communicators have an uncanny ability to know thoughts in
their facilitators’ minds. Exploration usually revels that
communicators have a well developed ‘sixth sense’ that
allows them to understand that other think, feel or know”
(Hanskew & Donnellan, 1992).
FACILITATED COMMUNICATION CONT’D

James Randi (Correx Archive, 2002) who is a well
known debunker of spiritualistic phenomena…
Unable to verify the authenticity if communication
via FC.
 Unable to verify telepathy as an element of FC
activity.
 In a specific case he worked on with an individual
with autism reported all evidence of a link between
FC and telepathy was anecdotal.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzYIidZvfjA
THE PARANORMAL & DEVELOPMENTAL
DISABILITIES

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

Large market and sale of complementary and
alternative therapies, some of which are completely
founded on paranormal premises.

Stevens (2001) noted that “the acceptance of many
methods of complementary and alternative healing
(e.g. homeopathy) involves magical thinking, which is
not based on proof of cause and effect, but rather on
perception and subsequent stipulation of assumed
cause and effect”.

In fact paranormal based therapies are marketed
directly for people with developmental disabilities!
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE…

Lawton (2002) reported:
“an extremely important way that some
naturopathic physicians can benefit the autistic
patient is with constitutional homeopathy.
Constitutional homeopathy (treating the entire
person rather than the particular symptoms) can
also result in significant behavior improvement
and in some case there may be complete cessation
of the autistic behavior”

THE PARANORMAL & DEVELOPMENTAL
DISABILITIES

Energy-based therapies:

“therapy which invokes the cosmic energy from the
cosmos and is transmitted to a person through the
channel of an accomplished healer. This actuates
overall healing of the person, apart from his/her
specific short-term or chronic disease” (Devi, 2002).
ENERGY BASED THERAPIES

These included:






Thought field therapy (TFT): “used when imbalances in the
bodies ‘sic’ energy which causes negative emotions” (Alataffer,
2002).
Bi-aura therapy: linking “physical health to energy blockages”
(Loch Ness, 2002).
Cranio-sacral therapy: used to “keep alive the fluctuating
field of energy known as the ‘spirit’ , which is separate and not
controlled by the body’s nervous system” (Dea, 2002).
Magnetic field therapy: “deprivation of the influence of the
‘natural’ magnetic field affects bioelectric cellular equilibrium”
(Sabadell, 1998).
Therapeutic touch (TT): “practitioner scans the patient’s
energy field pattern using the hands as sensors… The
practitioner is able to assess the patient’s energy by feeling
various sensations given from the patient (tingling, heat, cold,
heaviness, a drawing field) (Starr et al., 2000).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAZygugGoek
CONCLUSIONS
There is no evidence that alternative therapies
based on spiritualistic or paranormal premises
are of any benefit in the treatment for people
with developmental disabilities.
 Reviews available on the Internet on these
“therapies” that they work! Use vague or
emotional language which “pull” the parents in.
 We need to advise parents as professionals upon
hearing about these miraculous therapies that
data and substantial research should support
their claims.

CONCLUSIONS
Parents need to be aware that these alternative
therapies may conflict with therapies that do
have sound basis, which may postpone results.
 Become aware of Pratkanis study (2000) which
researched the use of propaganda techniques in
written strategies.


Use “intensely emotionally appealing words, use
vague rational, oversimplification of the issue, project
negative qualities on others, anti-intellect content (i.e.
saying professional is non-sympathetic),
encouragement to identify with the propagandist(i.e.
I’m a parent with of a disabled child) , or just lie”.
FINAL THOUGHT
We should consider this observation made from
Carl Sagan, an astronomer, (1996):
“It is barely possible that a few paranormal claims
might one day be verified by solid scientific
evidence. But it would foolish to accept any of them
without adequate evidence”.
REFERENCE
Jacobson, J.W., Foxx, R.M., & Mulick, J.A. (Eds). (2005). Controversial
therapies for developmental disabilities: Fad, fashion, and science
in
4192-X
professional practice. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, ISBN: 0-8058-
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Chapter 10 DD and the paranormal