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

Shocking! Treatments for Autism

2 Mar 2010There is controversy surrounding a treatment that has been used for many years to treat residents at the Judge Rotenburg Centre in Canton, Massachusetts.

The Judge Rotenburg Centre or JRC as its commonly known, is a special needs school that has been running for 38 years, it helps people from the age of three to adults, who have psychiatric or intellectual disorders which affects their learning capacities.

The type of treatment I am referring to is known as aversives, with this particular one involving, attaching small electrodes to someone who is affected by an intellectual disability, developmental delay, including autism, they also treat people with psychiatric behavioural disorder. A staff member from the JRC is equipped with a remote control, where they can administer the resident with a small electric shock if they are harming themselves or others or preventing themself or others to learn by being disruptive.

Most people are calling this abuse and want it banned. When I first read about this treatment, I completely agreed, but taking a closer look at some of the testimonials from parents of children who have received this treatment, and reading exactly what the circumstances are, I began to change my view on it.

This treatment is one of many aversives that are available, and they are only meant to be used in extreme cases. In most cases, the shocks are used to prevent self harm to the resident or prevent them from harming others. One mother’s testimonial stated that her son, who is severely autistic, “was growing increasingly bigger (6'2'' and ~200lbs), stronger, and lightning quick, so his aggressions were increasingly more difficult to deal with. It could take several people to tackle him to the ground and restrain him. Many times staff and our son were injured.”

These types of circumstances are the only time it is deemed acceptable to administer this ‘shock therapy’. Even when it is used, the Dr’s from JRC only resort to aversives once all other treatments have been exhausted and considered unsuccessful.

Treatment can only begin once permission from both parents/guardians have been given and then has been court-authorised.

The shocks can be given at .2 seconds to 2 second intervals and cannot be given too many times in one day as all records are sent to staff. Staff and the court are also notified if the shocks are being administered too frequently, to avoid misuse.

A high number of testimonials from parents say that their children have gone from pinching, biting, hitting themselves to becoming bruise and cut free and even been able to go for walks and places where they would never normally have been able to go.

Other aversive treatments used to control disruptive or harmful behaviour include: 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.

JRC doesn’t condone all the above treatments and only use a select few that they have researched found most effective.

Do you know anyone who has been treated in this way? Was it affective?

Do you think this is immoral?

Would you recommend this type of treatment for your child or patient’s?

If you’d like to have a look at the centre yourself, to gain a better understanding, click here -

Shocking! Treatments for Autism

A security room where patients/students and staff are monitered by security cameras

Shocking! Treatments for Autism

Front of the JRC building

Shocking! Treatments for Autism

Shocking! Treatments for Autism

Shocking! Treatments for Autism

One of the residents bedrooms

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