Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Disabled Boy Restrained and Shocked Over Thirty Times, for Seven Hours!!!

13 Apr 2012In 2010, I wrote about a centre in America that treats people with special needs, who display behavioural difficulties, such as intellectual disabilities, psychiatric disorders and autism, with alternative therapies.

The Judge Rotenburg Centre, in Massachusetts, in the US, is now its 40th year of operation. For decades, the centre has been administering its residents with extremely controversial treatments.

Some of their therapies, called aversives, include shock treatments, water spraying, pinching, smacking, body and limb restraints, mechanical restraints, helmets, social isolation, food treatments (being served bland staple food until behaviour improves), aversive tastes, air stream, ice application, aversive tickling and many others.

In my previous article, from two years ago, which you can read here: http://candoability.com.au/CDA/Blog/Shocking-Treatments-for-Autism_69.html - I wrote about how staff members are only supposed to use the more harsh treatments if all other options have been exhausted, or if the resident is self-harming, or harming somebody else.

According to the information from the Judge Rotenburg Centre’s website, the more severe aversive therapies, like shock treatment, can only be used by staff, if both of the resident’s parents or guardians have agreed to them, and all signed documents have been overseen by a court judge.

When these treatments are used, they can’t be abused, as an electronic record of all shock therapies is kept, for any staff, parents or legal representatives to see. Some people, including members of mental health facilities, and disability rights groups, strongly oppose to this type of disciplinary action.

There are also many parental testimonials, which highly commend the work of the Judge Rotenburg Centre, and say that it’s changed the behaviour of their loved ones, for the better.

Despite all of these claims, the Judge Rotenburg Centre has recently been in the news again, for all the wrong reasons. A video from 2002 was leaked onto the internet, of a then 18 year old resident, Andre McCollins, being shocked by electrodes, more than thirty times, within a seven hour period, while having his arms and legs restrained.

Andre’s mother, Cheryl, is suing the Centre and some of its staff, and the video, which you can watch here: http://www.news.com.au/world/tortured-terrorised-and-abused-teen-tied-down-and-given-shocks/story-e6frfkyi-1226324720048 - is being used as part of the trial. Cheryl told the court, through tears, that she hadn’t expected her son to be ‘tortured, terrorised and abused’, while at the Centre. This mother’s heart wrenching statement makes me wonder if some staff may have been abusing their power and trust, by mistreating even more residents of the Centre…

According to court documents, staff of the Judge Rotenburg Centre say that they were told by someone ‘posing to be a supervisor’ to shock Andre. Sounds a little bit suss to me.

The Centre’s boss and founder, Dr Matthew Israel, was put on five years’ probation last year, and forced to stand down, after Andre’s case first came to light.

Still footage of Andre's shock session

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