Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Autism, the Rotenberg Center and Rational Criticism

Much of the criticism of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center use of aversives to help prevent serious self injurious behavior by persons with autism and other disorders amounts to little more than pompous, holier than thou, name calling by individuals or groups who offer no real alternative to the use of mild aversive therapy in such dangerous situations. Instead they simply proclaim that the JREC is evil, their methods are evil, and that therefore the JREC must be stopped. They offer no real solution to help prevent the dangerous and deadly behavior by persons whose parents seek the help of the JREC.

An editorial from the Boston Globe on offers a much more balanced and reasonable criticism. It acknowledges the testimony of concerned parents who support the JREC, and the need for aversive therapy in some serious instances such as eye gouging, head banging and self mutilation but it critiques the error prone history of the JREC and stresses the need for more oversight of staff. From the Boston Globe we have received some calm, cool headed reflection. A rarity in discussion of autism issues and treatments.

"Israel says the center has implemented a slew of new supervisory and monitoring practices for its 38 group homes. But the overnight shift still lacks direct supervision by a registered nurse or other licensed medical professional. That doesn't inspire confidence.

The decision to apply aversive techniques rests in the hands of parents and a probate court judge who vets each case with medical experts. The question isn't so much whether skin shocks are an acceptable form of treatment, but whether the Rotenberg Center is the right place to do it.

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