U.S. Department of Justice opens investigation on Judge Rotenberg Center

23 Feb

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is probably the best known and most controversial special education school in the world. The JRC describes itself as:

The JUDGE ROTENBERG CENTER (JRC) is a special needs school in Canton, Massachusetts serving ages 3-adult. For 38 years JRC has provided very effective education and treatment to both emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors.

If you haven’t heard of them, you are probably wondering how they could be controversial. From the JRC website:

If positive and educational procedures alone are not effective, then after trying them for an average of 11 months, we approach the parents to suggest supplementing the rewards with a corrective (aversive) consequence for the problem behavior. If the parent approves, and if we obtain an individualized authorization from a Massachusetts Probate Court, we apply an aversive in the form of a 2-second shock to the surface of the skin, usually on the arm or leg, as a consequence each time the problem behavior occurs.

Yes. The JRC uses aversives. Not just any aversives, they use electric shocks. When I first read that it sounded like they get parental and Court approval for each shock. Not so. Children are fitted with backpacks or “fanny packs” which have control units. Children are monitored 24/7. If a staff member believes an aversive is called for, the JRC staff can remotely signal the control unit to apply a shock to the child. Children can be shocked 30 times–or more–in a single day.

A coalition of disability organizations have filed a complaint against the Judge Rotenberg Center with the United States Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice responded with a letter stating they have opened a “routine investigation”.

A letter from Nancy Weiss informing people of the investigation is below. Ms. Weiss is from the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities and the University of Delaware.The Complaint letter, signed by 31 disability organizations, is quoted below that.

Disability advocates have cause for celebration today. In response to the September 30th letter signed by 31 disability organizations, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division has announced that they have initiated an official investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC); see the Department of Justice letter attached.

I’ve been waiting to receive the official notice before announcing this exciting news for the 31 disability organizations that signed the September 30th letter and for all of the disability advocates who have been fighting for over twenty-five years to put an end to the use of electric shock, other painful and aversive procedures, seclusion, unnecessary restraint, and food deprivation as methods of behavior control. Our September 30th letter was sent to seven government agencies and three human rights organizations (see list of letter’s recipients below and the letter and addendum, attached).

The initial response of the Department of Justice was that they didn’t believe that they could take action because they didn’t believe they had jurisdiction over privately operated facilities (like the Judge Rotenberg Center) since CRIPA, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (http://www.justice.gov/crt/split/cripa.php) applies only to state-run (not state-funded or -licensed) institutions. I suggested to them that they consider jurisdiction under the ADA on the basis that people with disabilities are being treated in ways that are neither legal nor would be tolerated if applied to people who do not have disabilities (see my email to them below). Their letter states that they are pursuing this investigation under Title III of the ADA which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

None of the other government or human rights organizations that were recipients of the letter have so far been able or willing to take action – Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights had other priorities; Amnesty International is seeking guidance through their international headquarters in London but, as has been our experience in the past, they have shown little interest. The U.S. Department of Education referred us to their efforts with regard to seclusion and restraint, which, while related and important issues, do not address the concerns about electric shock and other aversive procedures described in the letter. The Office on Disability suggested that advocates should “think about finding a way to connect this issue to regulatory compliance,” though clearly we have pursued this approach with limited success for over twenty-five years.

While it is not possible to say how long the Department of Justice investigation will take (they just chuckled when I asked this) or what the impact of this investigation will be, we know that Department of Justice investigations are customarily thorough and rigorous. I will certainly keep the 31 signing organizations and others who have expressed interest in this effort informed along the way. If you are not sure you are on that list and would like to be kept posted, just send a reply email.

If you have first hand knowledge of JRC/BRI related issues and would like to be interviewed by the Department of Justice investigators, please let me know and I will pass this on to them.

To each of you who has maintained energy for this issue over a long, frustrating and mostly unproductive battle, I am most appreciative of your continued commitment. When you think about how long these abuses have been known and generally ignored, I know you share my sense that we must have fallen down the rabbit hole. We can only keep our fingers crossed that this is the first step in righting a long history of wrongs.

With renewed hope,

Nancy

This is the complaint letter.

September 30, 2009

We are writing to ask the above Government agencies and human rights organizations to take action to put an end to the use of electric shock, other painful and aversive procedures, seclusion, unnecessary restraint, and food deprivation – all inhumane and unnecessary methods of behavior modification used in some schools and residential facilities for children and adults with disabilities in the United States. This letter is signed by 31 disability organizations concerned with the humane treatment of people with disabilities.

The attached information focuses on the practices of the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. While there are examples of the use of prolonged seclusion and unnecessary restraint in schools and residential facilities across the country, studies prepared by government agencies and investigative reports that have appeared in the media suggest that the Judge Rotenberg Center uses these procedures as well as painful electric shock and food deprivation. According to public sources, residents of the Judge Rotenberg Center receive painful electric shocks for behaviors as innocuous as stopping work for more than ten seconds, getting out of their seats, interrupting others, or whispering1. In the view of the undersigned, the use of painful and dehumanizing behavioral techniques violates all principles of human rights. We are sending this letter to a number of government and human rights organizations. We ask that you show leadership in protecting the rights of all people in the United States by acting to put an end to these inhumane practices wherever they occur.

The type of practices against which we ask you to take action have been documented in numerous government reports and other public documents. One of the best documentations of these practices is the June, 2006 New York State Education Department report2 that noted the following concerns about the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC):

“Students wear the GED device [the device that delivers the electric shock] for the majority of their sleeping and waking hours, and some students are required to wear it during shower/bath time. The GED receivers range in size and are placed in either “fanny” packs or knapsacks. Staff carry the GED transmitters in a plastic box. Students may have multiple GED devices (electrodes) on their bodies. For example, one NYS student’s behavior program states, “C will wear two GED devices. C will wear 3 spread, GED electrodes at all times and take a GED shower for her full self care.” (p.7)

“A combination of mechanical restraint and GED skin shock is also used to administer a consequence to students that attempt to remove the GED from their bodies. In instances where this combined aversive approach is used, the student, over a period of time specified on his or her behavior program, is mechanically restrained on a platform and GED shocks are applied at varying intervals. … An example of this is found on one NYS student’s behavior program; a consequence for pulling a fire alarm is to receive 5 GED [shocks], over a 10-minute period, while being restrained on a four-point board.” (p. 9)

Another example of these inhumane practices was documented by NPR Health Reporter Joseph Shapiro, in his book No Pity. His observations of The Judge Rotenberg Center include the following:

” … one young man got tired of picking out matching shapes on a computer screen. But his teacher demanded that he continue and pinched him on the palm for disobeying. The young man …made a guttural noise of protest and tried to get up. In a second, two staffers had thrown him face down on the floor. This only made him more agitated. Then came a squirt in the face with ammonia water. The man spent a minute on the floor, trying to move and protest, but was restrained by one staffer’s knee in his back and another’s grip on his arm.”3

The JRC website describes these practices as “intensive treatment procedures”4 but almost every national disability organization agrees that the use of painful procedures to change a person’s behavior is unnecessary, inhumane, and should be banned.5

With this letter, we ask The House Committee on Education and Labor to take legislative action to end the use of these practices. In our view the practices described in the New York State Education Department report on JRC meet the definition of torture in the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that is, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person; for such purposes as:

* obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession;
* punishing him/her for an act s/he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed;
* intimidating or coercing him/her or a third person;
* or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind;

when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”6

We the undersigned urge you to review the attached information which documents extensive instances of inhumane practices and take legislative and regulatory action to halt the continued abuse of children, adolescents and adults with disabilities. Through numerous pleas and campaigns, advocates have seen little action from federal, state or local regulatory agencies or the criminal justice system. These entities have been aware of the documented abuses for over thirty years. Even though there is broad professional agreement that a wide range of positive interventions are available which are at least as effective in managing dangerous behaviors, and which do not inflict pain on or dehumanize individuals with disabilities, no regulatory agency has been able or willing to act to eliminate these practices.

As a group of advocates concerned with the support of persons with disabilities, we call on these Government agencies and human rights organizations to work with us to expose and condemn these behavioral techniques, take the legislative and other necessary steps to protect the rights of people with disabilities, and bring an end to these practices.

For additional information, to discuss proposed action, or to contact the organizations below, please contact Nancy Weiss by phone: 410-323-6646 or e-mail: nweiss@udel.edu

Signed:

Alaska Youth and Family Network and YouthMOVE

Anchorage, AL

American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Silver Spring, MD

The Arc of the U.S.

Silver Spring, MD

Autism National Committee (AutCom)

Forest Knolls, CA

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Washington, DC

Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies, Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

The Coalition for the Legal Rights of People with Disabilities

Boston, MA

Cobb and Douglas Counties Community Service Boards

Smyrna, GA

Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities

Hartford, CT

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Berkley, CA

Easter Seals

Chicago, IL

Exceptional Parent Magazine

Johnstown, PA

Hope House Foundation

Norfolk, VA

The Learning Community for Person Centered Practices

Annapolis, MD

The Maine Independent Media Center

Waterville, ME

Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education

Hanover, MD

National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors

Washington, DC

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC

National Association for the Dually Diagnosed (NADD)

Kingston, NY

National Disability Rights Network

Washington, DC

The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, University of Delaware

Newark, DE

Respect ABILITY Law Center

Royal Oak, Michigan

RHA Howell, Inc.

Raleigh, NC

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered

Kansas City, MO

TASH

Washington, DC

United Cerebral Palsy

Washington, DC

Values Into Action

Media, PA

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Nursing

Newark, NJ

University of San Diego Autism Institute

San Diego, CA

The Voices and Choices of Autism

Lakewood, CO

Here is an addendum letter.

Addendum to Sept ’09 Letter from Disability Advocates – End Inhumane Practices.doc

If you can stand reading more about JRC, Mother Jones ran a story on JRC in 2007, School of Shock.

The disability advocates say it much better than I ever could. Picking but one sentence: We cannot condone treating persons with disabilities in a manner that would not be tolerated if applied to other segments of the population.

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46 Responses to “U.S. Department of Justice opens investigation on Judge Rotenberg Center”

  1. Mike Stanton February 23, 2010 at 08:38 #

    I am concerned that so few autism specific organizations have added their names, in particular the Autism Society of America. It could be that some of the coalitions in the list of signatories include autism organizations But we have had a problem in the past with the NAS supporting initiatives via umbrella organizations of which it is a member. People who did not know we were members thought we were ignoring the problem.

    Is it possible to launch another letter endorsing the initial letter and welcoming the DoJ’s decision to investigate that seeks signatures from organizations and prominent individuals in the world of autism?

  2. Clay February 23, 2010 at 11:53 #

    This expresses my feelings well:

  3. Fielding J. Hurst February 23, 2010 at 15:56 #

    Pardon the pun, but I am schocked that this is happening in America 2010. Amazing.

  4. Anne February 23, 2010 at 17:43 #

    Congratulations to Nancy Weiss, who has been working on the JRC issue for a long time. I hope the Justice Department will see through the JRC’s propaganda, which has until now been far more effective than one would think possible.

  5. stanley seigler February 23, 2010 at 19:49 #

    Mike Stanton say re

    Re: I am concerned that so few autism specific organizations have added their names, in particular the Autism Society of America. [ASA]

    Comment:
    Not sure why ASA did not add their name…but they have been consistent in not condemning JRC…they (then NSAC) did not take a position in the 1982 actions mentioned in the referenced Mother Jones (MJ) article in which JRC (Tobinworld in CA, USA) agreed to stop physical punishment…the LA chapter (then LANSAC) took a strong position against JRC at that time…believe tried to close them nationally.

    MJ article recommended reading and one may want watch youtube news story

    Of concern and interest is why ASA over the years has not specifically condemned JRC…sad torture has continued for decades…but most profitable for Matt Israel (JRC CEO)…$400,000 salary per MJ.

    stanley seigler

  6. Sullivan February 23, 2010 at 21:38 #

    stanley seigler,

    the latest IRS form 990 that I could find (2008) shows Matthew Israel getting about $380,000 in salary and benefits (about $330k in direct salary).

    it also shows $2.5M in legal services. This appears to be to head off legislation to limit aversives.

  7. stanley seigler February 23, 2010 at 22:43 #

    re: Israel’s IRS 990 showing $380,000 vice MJ $400,000

    soo, besides torturing children, guess israel cheats on his taxes…who do you believe the IRS or your mother…

    all seriousness aside…thanks for the facts…$2.5M legal expense is interesting.

    BTW as an owner of a $56M (per MJ, 2007/08) business, it would not be that difficult to legally pick up $20,000 plus in benefits not reported as salary/benefits.

    stanley seigler

  8. FreeSpeaker February 24, 2010 at 23:04 #

    These aversives would be banned by the Geneva Convention and could not be used at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo. To use them on children is a horror beyond belief.

    Mike’s comment does raise a serious issue. If banning the use of aversives is not something that ALL organizations dealing with ALL disabilities cannot get behind, then those orgainzations are not legitimate advocates for the disabled.

  9. Club 166 February 25, 2010 at 00:28 #

    In the future, people will look back on this time, and wonder what kind of barbaric people could allow a place such as the JRC to exist. There will be no answer.

    The JRC is a stain on humanity. We must do all we can to eradicate this stain, and support its victims.

    Joe

  10. Clay February 25, 2010 at 00:35 #

    “In the future, people will look back on this time, and wonder what kind of barbaric people could allow a place such as the JRC to exist. There will be no answer.”

    Um, bribery of judges? Guess which one I mean.

  11. Clay February 25, 2010 at 03:24 #

    Oooh! Totally off-topic, but I just lured Sheri Nakken, R.N. (expired), MA, PMS over to my blog post about her by posting the link to it on EoH. She has a rather succinct reply there, and I responded to it humorously.
    http://cometscorner-clay.blogspot.com/2010/02/gates-works-for-malaria-vaccine.html

  12. stanley seigler February 25, 2010 at 21:30 #

    Clay say re

    re: Oooh! Totally off-topic,

    clay’s insights appreciated on most all issues…however, the issue of torturing children is orders of mag more important than need for personal put downs…

    “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)…Great minds: resist
    becoming small.

    need to hear more on why more advocate orgs (eg, ASA) were not signed on to condemning JRC torture…there may be legitiamte reasons…if not, why JRC has existed for decades and made its owner/ceo comfortable.

    stanley seigler

  13. FreeSpeaker February 25, 2010 at 21:36 #

    I’ll echo Stanley’s comment regarding why there seems to be so much silence about this. Where is the Blogosphere?

  14. Sullivan February 25, 2010 at 21:55 #

    FreeSpeaker,

    so far the news coverage has been light. But there are stories today–Boston Globe, Disability Scoop and UPI have stories out on this.

  15. Clay February 25, 2010 at 23:05 #

    Stanley said:
    “clay’s insights appreciated on most all issues…however, the issue of torturing children is orders of mag more important than need for personal put downs…

    Hi Stanley! If you want to see an article about torture and imprisonment of children, see today’s blogpost.

    http://cometscorner-clay.blogspot.com/2010/02/violated-for-having-autism.html

    So you know, I wanted people to see what was happening there, it’s highly amusing, and interesting to know that Ms Sheri Nakken has been handed the keys to EoH, obliterating the last vestige of credibility that venerable List ever had. The reason I posted it here was that it was the most recent one, and would get the most readers. Logical, yes?

  16. Lindsay February 27, 2010 at 04:47 #

    Oh, thank goodness!

    I vaguely remember the JRC being investigated before, and nothing coming of it, but maybe it will be different this time. At least the Powers that Be are paying attention to us.

  17. Nancy Weiss February 27, 2010 at 16:06 #

    So glad to see so many comments on this. I want to reply to a few. I did invite the ASA to sign on. They declined with a somewhat cryptic reply. In response to discussion here I just sent an email to them asking for more of an explanation. I will share more when I hear from them (or if I don’t!).

    I am working now on next steps. I’m looking at setting up some meetings with DOJ and other DC officials to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome. While it’s clear that anyone reading the letter that was sent is going to be horrified (and that every word is documented), spend an hour with Matt Israel and the JRC parents, and that same person is going to come away realizing, at the very least, that this is a complex issue. Not that this minimizes our point or weakens our resolve in any way, but we need to make sure that the DOJ investigators aren’t snowed. Many a journalist has gone in there horrified and come out wondering. He is very convincing.

    I very much value the support and suggestions of people who participate in this blog; if you have ideas about next steps, I welcome them. You can comment here and I’ll read or if you’d prefer, send me an email (nancy-weiss@comcast.net). I truly appreciate knowing there are others out there who keep this issue in their hearts.
    — Nancy

  18. wondering February 28, 2010 at 05:03 #

    Would this be the same Nancy Weiss, the MSW behaviorist, who lobbies for PBS – aka enforced ABA – in schools?

  19. Mike Stanton February 28, 2010 at 11:15 #

    I think of PBS as an attempt to utilize behaviourist techniques within an ethical framework. That is what it means in the UK source

    Looking down the list of signatories I expect that with such a diversity of organizations one could find lots of differences to their philosophies and approaches to disability. The point of this coalition is not to sort out those differences or use them as a bar to participating in the coalition. The point is for the greatest number of organizations and individuals to unite around A Call to Action to Eliminate the Use of Aversive Procedures and Other Inhumane Practice.

  20. stanley seigler February 28, 2010 at 15:58 #

    Mike Stanton say re

    re: The point of this coalition is not to sort out those differences or use them as a bar to participating in the coalition. The point is for the greatest number of organizations and individuals to unite around A Call to Action to Eliminate the Use of Aversive Procedures and Other Inhumane Practice.

    COMMENT
    “not to sortt out those differences”, a point oft lost…coalitions can accomplish much if, when there is an action call to improve life quality for special needs citizens: All agree NOT to sort out differences…calls for action say to elect sympathetic politicians; provide adequate program funding; eliminate inhumanity (ie, ensure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.”) often fail due to a focus by some on differences…indeed the point is to unite around a call for action.

    OTOH if looking for a specific program for a unique child/adult the need to point out program differences and philosophies is a requirement…in this light, “PBS aka enforced ABA” is an interesting topic…but not here.

    stanley seigler

  21. Nancy Weiss February 28, 2010 at 17:26 #

    Hi, all — Just wanted to respond to the question, is this “the same Nancy Weiss, the MSW behaviorist, who lobbies for PBS – aka enforced ABA – in schools”. I’m not sure if there is another Nancy Weiss or confusion about what I advocate for. I used to be the Executive Director of TASH. I believe in behavioral supports that are totally person (and family) centered and directed. I definitely don’t believe in enforced ABA or enforced anything for that matter.

    My dear friend Herb Lovett once said to me, “Look here’s the deal. You’ve got to imagine that when you get to the pearly gates, everyone you ever helped with behavioral issues is going to be lined up. Some number of them are going to come up to you, shake your hand, clap you on the shoulder and thank you for helping to make their lives better. The rest are going to haul back and slug you in the jaw. Your job is to make sure you’ve got a line of people who want to shake your hand”. It is with this in mind that I’ve done my work for a great many years.

    When I was at TASH I wrote an article called, “It May Be Non-Aversive But Is It Non-Coercive?: The Ethics of Behavior Change in the Modern Age”. A version of that article was later published (co-authored with Tim Knoster) in the Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions.

    Here’s a quote from the original article that I think gives a sense of what I believe about all this:
    “Positive approaches are only those which enhance the lives of the people with whom we work; they are characterized by collaboration versus control. They focus more on illumination (or understanding the meanings and purposes of the challenging behaviors from the individual’s point of view) than on elimination (or simply reducing behaviors we perceive to be unacceptable). There is no question that some people with disabilities have behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive or otherwise difficult. I am not one who believes that because all people are to be valued and respected equally that all behaviors are equally acceptable. Some people (both with and without disabilities) exhibit behaviors that interfere with the quality of their own lives and the lives of the people with whom they interact. We have a responsibility to offer supports for people to change behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive, or interfere with their ability to achieve goals they have set for themselves. Our responsibility, however, is to do this in ways that value, enhance, and include people, rather than through the use of methods that are coercive and too often, come dangerously close to revenge.”

    I’m happy to send the full versions of these articles or one I wrote recently on the future of disability supports. Here are a few quotes from that one (from a list of what I hope for the future):

    — Society will be just as unwilling to tolerate the abusive treatment of people with disabilities as they are the mistreatment of others. I hope for a day when, if information became known about substandard treatment for people with disabilities, the public would rise up with the same energy and outrage as when the abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib became public. Our tolerance of a different standard betrays the degree to which people with disabilities are still inherently devalued.

    — It will be recognized that institutions and other highly controlled congregate settings are not good for people and they will become a thing of the past.

    — We will finally figure out that it is not only unethical but downright illogical to respond to people’s desperate attempts to assert a degree of control over their lives by imposing greater and greater amounts of power over them.

    Just write if you’d like the full text of any of these. I believe each person (and kids’ families) know better than anyone what’s best for them — the job of professionals is to provide supports that people want and offer opportunities for full, engaged lives as envisioned by the person who chooses to receive supports from that organization.
    — Nancy

  22. wondering February 28, 2010 at 20:37 #

    My child was physically abused at a school using ABA/PBS–in a district using mandated PBS…this is why I ask. Several of those on the list of signatories declined to help in any manner (to put it politely). It seems we all agree that abuse at JRC is terrible, but it can’t happen within a PBS framework. And, if it happens, it will be buried.

    PBS can often be a stringent form of ABA–especially in the US school systems. It pervades all areas and restricts freedoms. Please see the three-tiered PBS model to be aware of what is being advocated for. The top tier is utterly restrictive.

    Let’s close ALL the bad schools. Be they the School of Shock or the School of PBS … who has greased all the political wheels but is just as insidious and harmful.

  23. stanley seigler February 28, 2010 at 22:25 #

    wondering say re

    Re: It seems we all agree that abuse at JRC is terrible, but it can’t happen within a PBS framework. And, if it happens, it will be buried…PBS can often be a stringent form of ABA

    It can and does happen with ABA/PBS (any/all ABA programs and other)…and for sure lets close all the bad schools…

    Not a fan of ABA (behavior mod)…have not seen proof of long term success…At 4, my daughter (at UCLA with a lovvaas disciple) learned to button…at 44 she no longer buttons…my daughter…our children…not one of Pavlov’s dogs.

    in another LBRB blog/subject…[richard say] they believe behaviour modification will fix a child with a communication difficulty. So instead of addressing the real issues they subject them to treatment that dehumanises them and then when it does not work they blame the individual and label them low functioning. Of course they do not wish to be challenged how would they live with such a crime against humanity.
    Facilitated Communication – where does a neurodiverse skeptic stand?

    [nancy weiss say] As a field, it is time to move beyond overly restrictive and coercive practices, not only because they are dehumanizing but also because they rarely lead to durable positive change…we have a responsibility to the people we serve (and to ourselves) that has less to do with getting others to act in predetermined ways and much more to do with supporting people to become increasingly self-directed and fulfilled
    http://www.grrec.ky.gov/CaveWeb/caveland_files/InclusionProject/art%2011%20-%20It%20may%20be%20nonaversive%20But%20is%20it%20positive.pdf

    this does not sound like a “true believer” PBS/ABA advocate…in any event she has this parents sincere appreciation and heart felt thanks for her untiring efforts to end inhumane programs at JRC.

    Full disclosure: I do not know ms weiss…and BTW beware of any program’s “true believers”.

    Sorry to hear about “wondering’s” child…the abuse goes on and on…and our compassionate conservative; all talk, no walk; Christian society; (w/ minimum exception) doesnt really give a damn…

    Closing JRC is a most important walk/step…but “miles to go”…

    stanley seigler

  24. stanley seigler March 1, 2010 at 03:58 #

    wondering say re

    Re: It seems we all agree that abuse at JRC is terrible, but it can’t happen within a PBS framework. And, if it happens, it will be buried…PBS can often be a stringent form of ABA

    It can and does happen with ABA/PBS (any/all ABA programs)…and for sure lets close all the bad schools…

    Not a fan of ABA (behavior mod)…have not seen proof of long term success…At 4, my daughter (at UCLA with a lovvaas disciple) learned to button…at 44 she no longer buttons…my daughter (our children) not Pavlov dogs.

    in another LBRB blog/subject…[richard say] they believe behaviour modification will fix a child with a communication difficulty. So instead of addressing the real issues they subject them to treatment that dehumanises them and then when it does not work they blame the individual and label them low functioning. Of course they do not wish to be challenged how would they live with such a crime against humanity.
    Facilitated Communication – where does a neurodiverse skeptic stand?

    [nancy weiss say] As a field, it is time to move beyond overly restrictive and coercive practices, not only because they are dehumanizing but also because they rarely lead to durable positive change…we have a responsibility to the people we serve (and to ourselves) that has less to do with getting others to act in predetermined ways and much more to do with supporting people to become increasingly self-directed and fulfilled
    http://www.grrec.ky.gov/CaveWeb/caveland_files/InclusionProject/art%2011%20-%20It%20may%20be%20nonaversive%20But%20is%20it%20positive.pdf

    this does not sound like a “true believer” PBS/ABA advocate…in any event she has this parent’s sincere appreciation and heart felt thanks for her untiring efforts to end inhumane programs at JRC.

    Full disclosure: I do not know ms weiss…and BTW beware of any program’s “true believers”.

    Sorry to her about “wondering” child…the abuse goes on and on…and our compassionate conservative; all talk, no walk; Christian society; (w/ minimum exception) doesnt really give a damn…

    Closing JRC is a most important walk/step…but “miles to go”…

    stanley seigler

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Comment:
    My child was physically abused at a school using ABA/PBS–in a district using mandated PBS…this is why I ask. Several of those on the list of signatories declined to help in any manner (to put it politely). It seems we all agree that abuse at JRC is terrible, but it can’t happen within a PBS framework. And, if it happens, it will be buried.

    PBS can often be a stringent form of ABA–especially in the US school systems. It pervades all areas and restricts freedoms. Please see the three-tiered PBS model to be aware of what is being advocated for. The top tier is utterly restrictive.

    Let’s close ALL the bad schools. Be they the School of Shock or the School of PBS … who has greased all the political wheels but is just as insidious and harmful.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Here’s a quote from the original article that I think gives a sense of what I believe about all this:
    “Positive approaches are only those which enhance the lives of the people with whom we work; they are characterized by collaboration versus control. They focus more on illumination (or understanding the meanings and purposes of the challenging behaviors from the individual’s point of view) than on elimination (or simply reducing behaviors we perceive to be unacceptable). There is no question that some people with disabilities have behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive or otherwise difficult. I am not one who believes that because all people are to be valued and respected equally that all behaviors are equally acceptable. Some people (both with and without disabilities) exhibit behaviors that interfere with the quality of their own lives and the lives of the people with whom they interact. We have a responsibility to offer supports for people to change behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive, or interfere with their ability to achieve goals they have set for themselves. Our responsibility, however, is to do this in ways that value, enhance, and include people, rather than through the use of methods that are coercive and too often, come dangerously close to revenge.”

    Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    As a field, it is time to move beyond overly restrictive and coercive practices, not only because they are dehumanizing but also because they rarely lead to durable positive change. Rather than seeking ways to control people (in the name of treatment and/or intervention), we should be seeking ways to better understand them, to communicate with them, and to work with them toward achieving fulfilling lives. In the assessment and intervention design process one will generally never go wrong by asking, “You seem unhappy. Is there anything I can do?” or “You seem to need something. Can I help?” When people feel valued and included they are much less likely to behave in ways that are challenging to the people around them. As helpful as technology can be (and, to be clear, technologies such as functional behavior assessment and subsequent supports can be invaluable), it is not enough to design behavior programs that avoid the use of aversive procedures and restraints but depend heavily on other coercive means. As family members, advocates, staff, teachers, researchers, and others who work in the field of behavior change, we have a responsibility to the people we serve (and to ourselves) that has less to do with getting others to act in predetermined ways and much more to do with supporting people to become increasingly self-directed and fulfilled.

    Richard sayxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    They believe behaviour modification will fix a child with a communication difficulty. So instead of addressing the real issues they subject them to treatment that dehumanises them and then when it does not work they blame the individual and label them low functioning. Of course they do not wish to be challenged how would they live with such a crime against humanity.

    I can only re-iterate the points I have raised. I have never suffered at the hands of typing or fc but I certainly suffered at the hands of behaviour modification and segregation. As I stated none/or very few of the children at either schools I attended went on to higher things.
    Facilitated Communication – where does a neurodiverse skeptic stand?

  25. stanley seigler March 1, 2010 at 06:45 #

    apologies for duplicate post. LBRB owner pls delete my post dated 1 march…thanks
    stanley seigler

  26. Liz FS May 5, 2010 at 20:34 #

    Staff at the school defend their actions by saying that these are the most severely disabled kids, the most violent behavioral cases and the shocks or other ‘aversions’ do not last long. They say that without these treatments, these kids would never be able to go outside and sit in the sun or dance with ponies on a rainbow stream.

    However, if you saw the 60 Minutes piece, read the Tribe article (1) or the MDRI Report (2), you will see that isn’t the case. Not only are many of these kids as ‘normal’ and non-violent as you would see in any public school for kids with disabilities, the ‘aversions’ go on for hours, sometimes weeks or months. How much time are these kids spending outside when they’re shackled in isolation for months at a time, being denied food and human contact beyond torture?

    One former staff member says: “When you start working there, they show you this video which says the shock is ‘like a bee sting’ and that it does not really hurt the kids. One kid, you could smell the flesh burning, he had so many shocks. These kids are under constant fear, 24/7. They sleep with them on, eat with them on. It made me sick and I could not sleep. I prayed to God someone would help these kids.”

    More than that, the ‘aversions’ are not limited to disciplinary responses to bad behavior. According to one link: “Mock and threatened stabbings — to forcibly elicit unacceptable behaviors resulting in electric shock punishments (Labeled as Behavioral Research Lessons or BRLs, by the center) were reported to MDRI as well as state regulatory bodies.” In other words, they were deliberately setting these kids off so they could torture them, then study and write up the results to the ‘aversions’. One former student said “The worst thing ever was the BRLs. They try and make you do a bad behavior and then they punish you. The first time I had a BRL, two guys came in the room and grabbed me – I had no idea what was going on. They held a knife to my throat and I started to scream and I got shocked. I had BRLs three times a week for stuff I didn’t even do. It went on for about six months or more. I was in a constant state of paranoia and fear. I never knew if a door opened if I would get one. It was more stress than I could ever imagine. Horror.”

    This goes way beyond the benign image the people at Rotenberg want you to walk away with. It is not a stretch to compare this to Guantanamo Bay, but these kids committed no crimes. It even seems fair to think back to Nazi Germany’s medical experiments on the Jewish people they kept locked in concentration camps. How ‘normal’ or inclusive a member of society does a person have to be to be afforded the basic human rights described in the Geneva Convention?

    That’s a question you should be asking your representatives in the legislature.

    I live in California. According to The Scientific American (3), rates of diagnosed cases of autism in California rose 600 to 700 percent between 1990 and 2001. 205 reported cases in 1990 and 3000 in 01. One in every 91 children in California has been diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum. That’s ten percent of the population born between 1990 and 2001 and who knows how many more since. Alot of people to be denied basic human rights. These kids live in an often impenetrable world of their own. Many experts believe that there is a certain terror of the world beyond their cocoon. The Rotenberg Center is doing no one any good by teaching the most defenseless people imaginable that they are RIGHT to be afraid of that world. There is no place for an enlightened society on the Rotenberg spectrum. The DOJ is investigating the Center for human rights violations. Please – contact your representatives and demand action. Tell them you want them to stand up and denounce the use of ‘aversions’ as applied in the Rotenberg Center and ask them to shut it down.

  27. Carolina Hatfield July 27, 2010 at 11:29 #

    My 17 Year old Aspies description of being placed in a school with great marketing, but definitely lacked knowledge of Asperger’s Syndrome. They said they had teachers who were educated in learning differences. Buyer beware: Greenbrier Academy for Girls in WV. My daughter’s account:

    I am the girl from Oregon that was pulled from the program, and first of all, I would like to say that I have seen Greenbrier help some kids. However, it was not the right place for me.
    As for saying things in group settings that “no one would even joke about,” there were many things said at Greenbrier that I personally found vulgar and not something to joke about, so I am not sure what is being referred to there. And as for everyone being “offended” by what I had said, many people at Greenbrier take things way too personally. I am not bashing anyone though, because I understand they are at Greenbrier for a reason.I would like to make it clear though that I DID NOT speak openly or descriptively about sex and definitely not rape. And I do not remember discussing anything concerning rape in class so again, I am unsure of what is meant by that.
    And yes, I did have a journal where I said certain things about some people. Those were meant to be private, as in only for me to read. I did not label “everyone,” a whore though.
    I wouldn’t recommend Greenbrier to a child that does not do drugs, is not promiscous, or have any similar problems like that, as this is a school that fits those types of issues more. There are kids at Greenbrier who are violent, and deal with restraining their negative emotions, things like that. So just be aware of that before you possibly send your kid there.
    I know a girl from Greenbrier, Jenn, who had huge anger issues and it was impossible for me to actually be friends with her. But I saw her really work at managing that anger, and it was so much nicer to be around her. So I understand how it could help someone. However this is not always the case, and can be completely opposite for someone who is left there when it is not the right place for them. Also, I DID NOT persuade my mother to have me leave. She did this on her own.
    At Greenbrier, something was said between another girl and I, and it was said that I called her the N word. This is completely false. I made this clear in a meeting I had. Then, when my mother pulled me from the program, she told me Ron had relayed that I had actually called this girl the N word, when that is just a rumor. You can understand how that would make me mad. I never trusted Ron, or even my own counselor, as they never gave me time to trust them, they just expected it from me. And one of the adults there actually attempted to force me to hug them. This did not go down well for me. When I made it clear I did not feel comfortable with this, this adult tried to chase me to give me one! I consider that crossing boundaries. And no, everyone from Greenbrier, that does mean I have never crossed a boundary. It just means that was clearly crossing one, and I did not like it. I know there was a math teacher that went there and she supposedly worked for mentally challenged children. I completed a math test and she told me I was messing up on purpose. I just didn’t think people at Greenbrier were as accepting or understanding of the unique needs of different people. This is why you should carefully consider whether your child fits Greenbrier before sending them there.

  28. stanley seigler July 27, 2010 at 16:39 #

    HOUSEKEEPING

    In reviewing this thread, I found I had inadvertently posted comments here.

    LBRB owner pls delete my post: “stanley seigler May 12th, 2010; 05:19:59”

    Apologies to all

    stanley seigler

  29. The ICAA August 1, 2010 at 21:30 #

    The ICAA public statement regarding the JRC can be found at our official website: http://www.internationalautismcoalition.com/

    It is the position of the United Nations that the skin shocks are “torture”.

    Thank You,

    The International Coalition for Autism and all Abilities

  30. stanley seigler August 2, 2010 at 03:30 #

    It [ICAA’s position] is the position of the United Nations that the skin shocks are “torture”.

    anyone know ASA’s position specific to JRC…

    stanley seigler

  31. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. August 2, 2010 at 11:20 #

    “anyone know ASA’s position specific to JRC…”

    They have never been opposed to the place, at least in their official capacity.

    Regarding the question of the use of shock-generators being torture, I have this to say:

    Matthew Israel claims to have studied under B. F. Skinner. This he may well have done. I don’t know and I don’t care. Matthew Israel is going against everything that behaviourist theory says about behaviour management: both Skinner and Watson were of the investigated opinion that punishment was not useful… it’s use was not justified, based on the experimental results that they got. It does not do what people think it does. End of story.

    I personally and professionally believe this to be true: it may suppress behaviour but the result is only temporary. It may well generate fear and anxiety – especially in autistic people (who may need specific guidance and/or instructions) – and that anxiety will impede learning. When the imposition of pain is used as a punishment, this is ethically questionable, at best. A number of observers have mentioned the use of Behaviour Research Lessons: these are ‘lessons’ during which the discriminative stimulus applied to elicit behaviour is a noxious one: it could be the threat of a stabbing or some other attack (either on the person or his/her liberty. These ‘lessons’ are designed to bring out a natural response that the JRC can decide is inappropriate and then punish the person for (notwithstanding that this is punishing the person for an entirely natural response to the discriminating stimulus applied). This is likely to end in a state of learned helplessness pervading the person’s life. I am of the opinion that this is the JRC’s intended result with this sort of lesson, since it cannot possibly teach anyone anything else, except how the JRC staff could induce a state of learned helplessness in the student..

    My emotional response to this is that it is – without doubt – torture. My rational response is that this is certainly not a positive way to work, at least on scientific – let alone ethical – grounds. If the aim of Behaviour Research Lessons is induce learned helplessness, then this is absolutely unacceptable.

    Matthew Israel may indeed have studied under Skinner. But it seems that he learned absolutely nothing from him, and he does Skinner a huge disservice by even mentioning his name in JRC-relevant contexts.

    There needs to be a serious push from state and federal agencies to shut the JRC down. The failure of the American judicial and legislative systems to achieve this so far speaks volumes about the prevailing attitudes within those systems towards those who have difficulties living in a world that fails repeatedly to understand their needs.

  32. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. August 4, 2010 at 05:08 #

    Interesting. No response from Mr. Seigler to my post. Mind you – on this issue, he and I have little to argue about. I get the feeling he’d like to see the place shut down and – quite frankly – so would I. I think we’d disagree on the idea of the JRC being a behaviourist institution (personally, I can’t honestly call that electro-shock bollocks ‘behaviourism’ any more than I could call psychoanalysis a ‘cognitive-emotional’ paradigm).

    I don’t really expect a response from him, but I hope that the answer I gave to his question gives him an idea of what the ASA thinks of the JRC.

  33. naughtyautie September 20, 2010 at 04:03 #

    Oh wow. Autistic people are always getting abused damn it! See “nursing nightmares” on you tube for a reality check on dangerous, deceptive nurses that work with autistic persons. The mom of this autistic boy kicks ass

  34. Clay September 20, 2010 at 05:31 #

    I looked at that “nursing nightmares” video.

    Looked like a deceptive video to me. We’re told what’s going on, told how to interpret everything. Looks to me like the Gilbert’s themselves are very nasty pieces of work. It’s very easy to edit video to make it appear any way you want, but they didn’t bother to edit out their own nastiness.

  35. EJ September 20, 2010 at 19:34 #

    Dear David N Andrews,

    The ASA has taken absolutely no position on the JRC from what I have seen. Furthermore, the JRC lists Autism Society of America as an organization that lists them (JRC) as a “choice for families”.

    I am not sure if it is still listed at the JRC website or not, as I heard that after the most recent JRC themed ICAA Radio program on BTR, it was changed. If you have any links or sources I can check out, please let me know.

    I would encourage all of you to listen to that episode (at least the last ten-15 minutes) as everything listed was taken directly from the JRC site. Including the admission that staff regularly tricked students to commit a negative behavior for the sole purpose of shocking them.

    Honestly, I am not sure how people turn their heads to this and are able to sleep at night. Shame.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icaa
    go to the episode with Rep. Scibak.

  36. autieadvocate January 23, 2011 at 21:03 #

    Videos on youtube titled, “Shocking Patient Neglect of Autistic Person” and
    “Autistic Adult in Crisis Goes Unnoticed” should warrant immediate attention from BOTH parties as to the realities of healthcare failing to accomodate persons with special needs like autism in US healthcare system. Gee, I wonder if that too is just “deceptive” as this “clay” thinks is the case in another video posted by this family. Wake up Clay dear, this is autism reality, if you think the family was nasty, because they didn’t edit out their anger, well, I say, you should consider how authentic they are, by NOT editing out their disgust and anger over a cna who left their autistic son alone in a room while he was playing video games. So much for the big advocate Clay…this dude doesn’t have much discernment, does he?

  37. Chris September 2, 2011 at 20:53 #

    Off topic post is some kind of spam.

    • Sullivan September 2, 2011 at 22:26 #

      thanks Chris. I removed the comment.

  38. stanley seigler September 2, 2011 at 23:23 #

    [Mike Stanton say] I am concerned that so few autism specific organizations have added their names, in particular the Autism Society of America [ASA].

    COMMENT:

    ASA’s non JRC condemnation has been an issue with some/many for decades…eg, in 1982 ASA (then NSAC) would not not take a position re JRC (then BRI).

    the ASA LA chapter (then LANSAC) was instrumental in shutting JRC (BRI) down in CA with no help from national…

    CLIP from MJ article:

    “In 1982, the California Department of Social Services compiled a 64-page complaint that read like a catalog of horrors, describing students with bruises, welts, and cuts. It also accused Israel of telling a staff member to grow his fingernails longer so he could give an

    “In 1982, the facility settled with state officials and agreed to stop using physical punishments. Now called Tobinworld, and still run by Judy Weber, it is a $10-million-a-year organization operating day schools near Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Rotenberg Center considers itself a sister school to Tobinworld, and Israel makes frequent trips to California to visit Weber. The two were married last year. [end quote]

    apologies for ad nauseam comments/references…

    stanley seigler

  39. stanley seigler September 2, 2011 at 23:34 #

    more apologies to LBRB…i thought it was a new or update thread…will check dates of posts more closely in future…

    stanley seigler

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