Susan's Blog

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My State Rep and the Judge Rotenberg Center

No matter how you slice it, it does not make sense to use electric skin shocks on people to retrain them. Because if it is an effective technique, as the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, MA claims,  then why don’t we use it on proven violent criminals, too? Don’t we want them to learn how to behave in society? Don’t we want them to stop hurting people?

We would not use skin shocks on proven criminals because that would be considered “cruel and unusual punishment.” 

If we as a nation are not permitted to use aversive techniques to retrain, rehabilitate proven criminals (murderers, rapists, child molestors) then why can a school use such techniques as electric skin shocks to retrain children who are aggressive or self-injurious?

Huh? I’m confused.

No, I’m outraged.

A while back, I asked my State Rep Jeffrey Sanchez if he would help shut down the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass, because JRC uses electric skin shocks to “treat” its autistic students who have severe problems with aggression. Rep. Sanchez replied that I can’t possibly know what it’s like… or he said something like that…

I absolutely can know what it’s like for my child to be aggressive and out of control. It is documented in my books, my blog, my heart. But my Nat had an excellent education and he learned how to communicate. He learned to understand how to tell others what he needed, how to reach out when he had to or wanted to.

All people can learn. It is up to us — society, parents, schools — to be patient and figure out how. Without pain, horror, and abuse. It may take years, but it can happen. This I know. There simply is no justification for torture. If you watch the video, you will witness a child being tortured, in our state, on our watch.

So here is my letter to Rep. Sanchez, because yesterday I viewed a video on ThAutcast, shown by FOX25, and long-suppressed by the JRC, of a child being skin-shocked. I don’t know if Sanchez still supports JRC’s methods. So I’m asking him to consider condemning them, helping to end their use of electric skin shocks and other aversive methods.

Dear Jeff,
As a constituent, and someone whose known you for years, I have to ask, to plead with you to please withdraw your support of the Judge Rotenberg School, if indeed you still do.  You once said to me, (I only remember what I perceived you said) “It’s the only thing that works for some of these kids,” or something like that.

Jeff, I know what it’s like. My son Nat has had serious bouts with aggression and out of control behavior. Scary stuff. But he learned. Even though severely impaired in terms of language, he learned.

All people with autism can learn, but it is up to society to figure out humane ways to teach them. There are cases where people with autism learn communication later in life (my own son, for example). Once people learn to communicate, whether verbally or typed or signed, or pointed, many of these difficult behaviors recede. This makes sense. If you can express what is bothering you, you can be helped.

Have you seen the video just released, of the JRC’s methods?  Take a look, but be prepared to be horrified. This just cannot be a school in Massachusetts, but it is!

Graphic video of teen being restrained, shocked played in court:

Schools must be supported to teach, using the many available and humane approaches, and not hurtful, abusive, or aversive ones. Skin shocks CANNOT be the answer. You have to draw the line somewhere.

As my state rep., I’m asking you, and as a prominent advocate in the autism community, I’m seriously putting it to you that you must consider withdrawing your support of this place, if you still do, and even with a personal connection you may have to it. Please, in the name of human decency.

If you already have withdrawn your support of JRC, then I thank you!

Thanks, Jeff.
Susan Senator

We will find out what Rep. Sanchez’ answer is and post it.


Were unlikely to see Senator Sánchez change his mind, or his answer — 30 years ago, the Senator sent his nine-year-old nephew, Brandon, to Rotenberg … and the nephew is still there as a “student” three decades later:

— added by Kate Gladstone on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I can’t fathom why, but there are parents with children at that awful place who sing it’s praises. People can be blind to the suffering of those whom society judges to be less than worthy of compassion.

— added by Jill on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm

It is stunning that the state of MA allows this torture chamber of a school to exist. The video is horrifying and the reasons behind the shocks in this case were due to the fact the boy would not remove his coat when told. Are they joking? What kind of animals diguised as therapists do this to a human being? From what I understand most of their students are placed there from NY. Maybe NY should wake up and stop handing their kids over to this abusive school and it would finally shut down.

Let me also say to any parent who comes across a BCBA who worked for this hell hole to run from them as quickly as possible. ANY ethical BCBA would never be associated with the practices at Rotenberg.

— added by Lora on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

Horrifying that this continues to be allowed. The tuition for one child could pay for 24 hour quality, humane therapy and teaching.

— added by michele on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Not to mention the wasted lives of these children. The wasted potential, and the suffering.

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I could not even watch the whole thing. It is an outrage that this ‘school’ even exists in this day and age! I am simply horrified, and feel so bad for that child 🙁 That poor boy! Our kids can learn so much when given the right supports!! I am disgusted.

— added by Amy on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Dr. Drew Pinsky covered this on his televison show last night. I am so glad to see this go national and the crimes that are committed against these kids are finally being exposed for the world to see. If Mass. does not shut down this school after this case then there is absolutely no hope for the protection of kids in that state. They already have so many loopholes in their restraint laws and kids are illegally restrained often. I hope the mother prevails in the case against The Rotenberg Center and her son gets the justice he deserves and in turn all disabled children are finally treated like humans.

— added by Elaine on Friday, April 20, 2012 at 10:02 am

What has this country become when the people who need help the most are tortured, and people keep bringing their kids there. If your a parent who has a child in this place, and you know what is going on you have to be the most worst parent in the world. Your child didn’t fail you. You failed your child. I can only pray this place finally gets shut down, and these kids are free. I know what it is like to feel like nobody listens to you because they think your just a problem for them. I know what it is like to feel like you can’t leave I used to be in a grouphome. I can’t imagine being shocked with these devices. Why don’t they take the shocks to feel it for themselves what a sick country I live in. The best therapy is love no matter what happens in life. This has been going on for years in mental hospitals, nursing homes, and grouphomes. When will this stop we are hypocrits, and tyrants to our own citizens to the rest of the world.

— added by Jillian on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 4:56 am

Just want to ask you to email me and tell me who to write about getting the place shut down. I work with people who are mentally ill and cannot imagine shocking them.

— added by Martha S. Mayes on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

A Poem Dedicated to an English Professor:

No Life

You are fortunate that your child
Only required interventions that were mild.
JRC’s therapy saved my son’s life.
No longer would his self-injury require a surgeon’s knife.
Without the therapy, I will stay up at night.
With no end to my stress in sight.
While you sleep well in your bed
As my son rams his head
And then drops dead.

Ignore 112 peer reviewed articles on skin shock at my family’s peril,you know better!

— added by Lorraine on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Susan, you probably know this by now, but your representative Jeffrey Sanchez is THE major force in the MA legislature responsible for keeping the Judge Rotenberg Center OPEN. His son Brandon, age 27 as of 2007, had already been a “student” at the JRC for 15 years and shocked more than 5000 times under the auspices, apparently, of his father. This, from a 2007 Mother Jones article : “This is the same Brandon who Israel once shocked more than 5,000 times, prompting him to make a new device that could deliver much more pain. Nevertheless, Brandon’s parents credit Israel with saving their son’s life, and his uncle has helped ensure that no bill banning aversives becomes law.” I have heard this confirmed by other sources. Rep. Sanchez is a HUGE part of the problem as a very powerful voice in support of this atrocity. “

— added by hiro on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm

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