Electric Shocks Can Continue at Mass. School After Hoax

A statement on the school's Web site adds that, "skin-shock has no significant negative side effects."

In addition to electric shock therapy, students participate in reward-based learning, which allows students who behave well to earn points that can be exchanged for video games, jewelry and other toys.

Rotenberg Dispels Controversy, Again

While the school upholds that the shock therapy is harmless — and even has parents to vouch for the success of their children's treatment — Rotenberg has seen its fair share of controversy.

The state of Massachusetts has tried and failed to close the institution twice before because of its use of the electric shock treatment, according to The Associated Press, and in 2006 New York's Board of Regents said that it would not permit students from its state to receive shock therapy after 2009, except in very rare cases.

Parents of children with special needs are upset over the incident at Rotenberg, but many of them told ABC News that they had heard negative things about the school.

"I think it's barbaric and there are really no words," said Rita Shreffler, executive director of the National Autism Association, who has two special-needs children. "It's inexplicable. There's no reason to [shock] another human being."

Shreffler advised parents to "do their homework" about their children's caretakers.

"Be very watchful," said Shreffler, who added that her children have never been treated at Rotenberg." Special-needs kids a lot of times can't speak for themselves to tell the story."

"There is outrage that this type of treatment continues to exist and is so easily misused," said Richard Robison, executive director of the Federation for Children with Special Needs and father of two young adults with special needs. "I think we know enough now about autism that there other options [for treatment]."

Autism experts also argue against the school's claim that this type of treatment has no negative effect on the children it is used on, and say while no physical harm may result, psychological effects are almost certain.

"In terms of the stress that it creates for the individuals with autism there is simply no way there can't be some very negative long-term side effects," said Barry Pizant, who is an adjunct professor at Brown University's Center for the Study of Human Development. "It interferes with their ability [to] trust people who are with them and these are people who already have trouble understanding people."

Parents who send their children to Rotenberg may not be aware of other treatment options, said Pizant.

"In no way are we saying these are bad parents, but they've probably not received good programming for their kids in the past," Pizant told ABC News. "You can understand why they'd want to do anything for their kids."

"I see [shock therapy] as the last vestige of [an] old practice that was proven ineffective and we should have stopped doing it all together 20 or 30 years ago," said Pizant. "If you look in the mainstream of people working with kids with disabilities these aversives are totally out of the mainstream."

But when ABC News' "Primetime" went inside Rotenberg in February, the team met several families who were pleased with the treatment.

Linda Doherty's autistic son, Marc, is a student at Rotenberg and was being treated with shock therapy for his aggressive behavior.

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