Shock Therapy For Students With Special Needs: Is This 1913 or 2013?!

You may have seen the ABC News report back in November that exposed the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canon, Massachusetts for using electroshock therapy on students who misbehaved. Disability advocates had been fighting the practice for years; now, massive public outcry ensued. This month, state officials are finally attempting to more closely regulate the facility—which is resisting.

Said an attorney for the Center, “There’s plenty of scientific evidence to support (the use of aversive therapies) and the court continues to approve the treatment.” He also noted the the only other alternatives would be restraint or large amounts of antipsychotic drugs.

The school, open since 1971, is considered a last-resort facility for youth with severe behavioral disorders, including extreme aggression and self-mutilation. It also houses children and adults with intellectual disability. Reportedly, this is the last school in the country using electric shocks as a discipline technique, which disability advocates have described as “state-sponsored torture.” There’s nobody regulating what sort of voltage is used; in fact, back in December the FDA sent a warning letter noting that the Center was using unapproved devices.

It’s mind-boggling that this sort of inhumane practice has been allowed to go on. Our understanding of how to help kids and adults with intellectual disability has come a long way in recent decades. There are ways to help control behavioral issues that do not involve frying someone’s limbs or brain. These are kids and adults with disabilities who are getting treated this way, not criminals. Hopefully, authorities will end the practice very soon.

Hearing about stuff like this as the parent of a child with special needs is a shock to the system. It reminds you that there are still people out there who consider kids with disabilities lesser human beings, ones who can only be controlled with cruelty. It reminds us that as parents, and bloggers, we need to continue to help the world understand who are children are—and why they deserve the same respect any child deserves.

Image: Flickr/otisarchives4

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