Monday, August 20, 2007

Autism, Aversives and the Rotenberg School of Shock

In Experts on Self-Injurious Kids Challenge Dr. Israel's Methods Mother Jones looks at the Judge Rotenberg Center's continued use of electric shocks as a means of treating self injurious behavior in children with developmental disabilities and/or "problem" behavior in its historical context noting that when its use began decades ago there were few alternatives other than physical restraints and medication to treat patients with serious self injurious behaviors. Dr. Gina Green, Dr. Brian A. Iwata and Dr. Paul Touchette comment on the abandonment, decades ago, of aversive therapies in favor of functional analysis and positive reinforcement. But Dr. Matt Israel at the Judge Rotenberg Centre continues to use electric shock and other aversives and does so for a wide range of "problem" behavior. The Center's claim to do so in conjunction with the use of functional analysis was reviewed, at Mother Jone's request, by Dr. Iwata who after reviewing the Center's description of its functional analysis techniques stated:

""The procedures described do not amount to any type of functional analysis or functional assessment," Iwata concluded. Israel's "across-the-board rejection of the technology seems unusual for a program claiming to provide state-of-the-art services. In the case of [the Rotenberg Center], it seems that refinements in technology have been selective: The technology of punishment is unlike that used in any other program, whereas other technologies have been left behind."

This article is one of several by Mother Jones in a feature titled School of Shock an examination of the Rotenberg Center, its use of shock therapies for autism and "teen problem behavior", the inadequacy of its reporting, uncertified instructors, and its aggressive solicitation of business. Problem behavior can mean trivial matters such as profanity and dress code violations and can result in youths being strapped to restraint boards or chairs for hours or, or intermittently for days.

Reading School of Shock creates a sense of being caught in a time warp, of being transported to a time prior to the movie adaptation of Ken Kesey's 1962 novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". It is disconcerting to realize that such practices are permitted to continue in the United States today.


Maya M said...

Fully agree. It is hard to believe.
I remember what Roald Dahl's Matilda said about her abusive headmaster: "If you want to do such things, the secret is not to do them halfway. Go beyond every limit. Then people just won't believe that you are doing what you are doing. So they will let you continue and get away with it."

Anonymous said...

An extensive response to Ms. Gonnerman's article can be found here:
Matthew L. Israel,Ph.D.
Executive Director
Judge Rotenberg Educational Center