Saturday, August 18, 2007

Shocking American Export

photo credit- J.Star

Why is it that it seems that only the worst of American culture is exported from its shores? It's no wonder to me that America and Americans are villified around the world, when it seems the best we can export are the likes of Britney Spears and Michael Jackson.

But it seems that we have sunken to a new low. I've touched before on the abominable treatment that goes on at the Judge Rotenberg center (JRC)in Massachusetts, where electric shocks and other tortures are used on autistics in order to "train" them not to misbehave.

Now it seems that it's not enough to have this shameful treatment here in the states. We have to try to drag the rest of the world down with us. An article that appeared this week on NineMSN out of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia looks at the electric shock treatment that's used at the Judge Rotenberg Center, and asks parents of Australian autistics if they think it's a viable treatment option.

For those unfamiliar with the electric shock treatments used at the JRC, for "clients" that are sent there by their parents, after a period of time where positive incentives fail to decrease undesired behaviors, electrodes are placed on the students (after obtaining parental and court approval) and the students are shocked whenever "bad" behavior is exhibited.

Dr. Matthew Israel, the instigator and chief proponent of the use of "negative aversives" at the JRC was interviewed for the Australian article.

"The real torture is what these children are subjected to if they don't have this program," said Dr Israel.

Autistic children in the program do not suffer any long-term side effects, according to Dr Israel.

"…it has absolutely no side effects and is extremely effective as a corrective procedure to encourage children not to show violent behaviour," he said.

"If it didn't hurt it wouldn't be effective. It has to hurt enough so that the student wants to avoid showing that behaviour again."

As one can plainly see, he is a very sensitive and sensible individual. I wonder how he would like to be hooked up to the device he routinely uses on children, and give them the control over whether to shock him or not. I'm sure he wouldn't suffer any side effects. People all over the world would consider this torture if prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were subjected to this. Why is it considered "treatment" when used on the developmentally disabled?

Fortunately the majority of Aussies interviewed for the article seem to be a sensible lot, and agree that such "treatment" is totally unsuitable and unjustified:

Queensland mum, Joy, who struggles to cope with her autistic son Jayden, thought she would try the new device for herself.

"Before trying this I was sitting on the fence and I wasn't sure if I was for or against it."

"After feeling the intensity of this, I'm totally opposed to the whole thing," she said.

Even in cases where there has been a history of repeated violent behavior, an Aussie dad could see that torture was not the answer:

Sydney dad, Jim, has had his teeth broken three times by daughter Molly and he was also willing to try this new technique.

His six-year-old daughter has a history of being violent and he was prepared to be open minded bout this treatment.

"It might seem cruel (the eclectic shock) but in the times where she's smashing her head against the concrete or doing physical harm, that's got to outweigh ( the pain) side of it," he said.

"Ow that hurt…it’s painful, very painful," said Jim, after we've given him a shock using Dr Israel's system.

Jim thinks the therapy would just torture Molly who would be in tears after being subjected to the controversial shock treatment.

The article concludes by interviewing an Australian autism expert, Dr. Jackie Roberts, who felt the shock treatments would only make things worse:

"Children with autism in particular have a very high level of fear and anxiety, and punishing them actually increases that fear," said Dr Roberts.

"…it's likely to make the behaviours worse," she said. "We do know that punishment has a short-term effect."

It would be a very sad world where no one recognized this "treatment" for the torture it is. I'm heartened to hear the voices of reason by our friends down under, and I can only hope that they don't think that all of us up here are as nuts as Dr. Israel.


mcewen said...

Can we give Dr. Roberts a megaphone?
Best wishes

Daisy said...

I have a lot of respect for the parents who said, "Try it on me first." They had courage.

gettingthere said...

The parents who tried this "treatment" on themselves and found it wanting deserve the highest praise. Dr. Israel might be a little less certain if he did the same. Good for Dr. Roberts for speaking out against it.

Club 166 said...

You wouldn't think that you'd have to give someone a megaphone to spout some common sense, but it's apparently necessary. We should indeed give Dr. Roberts a megaphone.

The parents that had it done to them first were exhibiting the good sense that I would think any loving parent would. What parent wants to torture their own child?

Unfortunately common sense seems to be in short supply when society has to deal with anyone who is "different".


David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

I would be prepared to kill (or at least maim to the extent that the person would wish I'd killed them) ANYone who even tried to use that shit on my daughter.

No excuses for people as vile as Matthew Israel.

He is a shit.

Niksmom said...

I don't think the parents who tried it first were all that wonderful if they had to actually experience it before they could decide if it was a bad idea. Um, call me silly but shocking people with tons of electricity doesn't exactly sound like a minor annoyance. Why on earth would you have to try it to know that??

Bare Bones Gardener said...

THis is one Aussie dad of an Aspie' who says 'No f.... way, you going near my boy with that..'