Susan's Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No Excuses: Rotenberg School Must Stop

It’s time to shut it down.

The Judge Rotenberg Center is just a few miles away from me. From Nat.  Now there’s a video going around that a mom of a Rotenberg student wants you to see, about his 7 hour torture ordeal at the school. But the school doesn’t want it released.

Rotenberg parents always try to justify it by saying, “You don’t know what it’s like. It works.”

Well, I know what it’s like.  See “Rock Bottom” in my first book. See “Letting Go” in my second book. When Nat was 10. When Nat was 17. Look at the scars on our hands. Look at the scarred bump on Nat’s arm, where he bites himself. Nat has definitely gone through phases of intense aggression, and I still don’t know for sure what those times were all about. But he does. And that is all we need to know. Because Nat is a person, and there were real reasons he was becoming violent. Real reasons, but we could not figure them out. But eventually, they must have been resolved because he is comfortable and happy now. Without shocks, restraint, yelling, or any other abuse. Skin shock is abuse, there is no getting around that.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not claiming that I did anything right here. I think it was the combination of the family and the school and most of all Nat, working together, trying to figure out what was wrong, at least you can get schoolwork done for you now a days. My conclusion? A difficult time in his life (hormonal), a difficult time of year (seasonal/light changes), poor communication between Nat and staff and family, destructive dynamics that are hard for anyone in a relationship to overcome. And more. Ned and I worked constantly to figure it out. God knows how hard Nat must have worked.

That is the piece that is missing from the Rotenberg equation: what is going on in the student’s life, the student’s mind? What is bothering the student, that is causing these outbursts or actions? Why does this student hit herself? There are reasons. With people who cannot communicate by typical means, it is very hard to discover those reasons. But we must. It is our responsibility as their teachers and parents, as the adults, to work together with the student to understand.

Just because we don’t understand does not mean we can use shocks/torture.

And I know we don’t need this nightmarish, Medieval, inhumane place.  Take a look at what ThAutcast posted today, about this “school” in my own beloved state.



great post and scary as hell. kind of ties in w Todd Drezner’s piece about “treating” behaviors having nothing to do w what the behaviors express for the autistic person, from a while back.

this is such a painful issue that i can’t really speak to from experience but for a few inkling moments in my own experience; if i imagine just based on those moments, what these much more arduous experiences are like with kids having overwhelming struggles with aggression, then i can begin to comprehend the parents’ desperation, and the kids’. but we have to draw the line somewhere.

— added by jessica on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 7:33 am

That place is despicable. With the money the state pays for that school (probably double the outrageous tuition at the school I once worked at, they could hire top notch, around the clock, appropriate therapy for these kids. I’ve seen some children in the distant past (before there were effective and therapeutic medications), who could kill themselves or others, literally (and of course, completely unintentionally) and started from a very young age. Restraint is sometimes necessary, no-one likes it, but it is sometimes necessary. Along with functional behavior assessments and sometimes functional behavior analysis, which is different, to determine the function of the behavior. And all of caring, positive attention possible. But none of the JRC “interventions”, I wouldn’t treat my dog that way. They are NOT an example of ABA at all. I have worked using ABA and evolved as it has evolved for many many years and I know that I am a caring, loving, committed professional who has established positive relationships with so many children and adults. This stuff makes my skin crawl. We do need to understand why these kids do what they do and while we are working to understand, use humane and completely transparent interventions, all while protecting health and safety, dignity, and privacy of the individuals.

— added by michele on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 10:36 am

It is still unbelievable to me that the state of Massachusetts allows a school (if one can even call it a school-more like a prison/torture chamber) like this to exist in the state. What a disgrace. Unfortunately abuse of all kinds go on in so many schools as well as Rotenberg. See the website “Families Against Restraints And Seclusion.” The stories are sadly never ending. Too many think because a person has a disability that somehow gives them a right to restrain, seclude, abuse, etc., etc. Animals are treated better than many of these students.

— added by Amy on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The fact that a school like this exists, particularly in this day and age, is absolutely horrifying. I hope it is shut down immediately. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, I don’t know that I would have heard about it otherwise.

— added by kim mccafferty on Friday, February 24, 2012 at 10:12 am

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