Really, really shocking

Matthew Israel, facility director for the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, expressed disappointment at New Jersey’s Division of Development Disabilities’s decision not to send any more disabled adults to the residential school. The Judge Rotherberg Center uses electric shock therapy to address severe and aggressive behaviors. Three developmentally disabled adults from New Jersey have been living at the facility since childhood and will remain, as their families are “satisfied with their care,” according to an article by Susan K. Livio in the Newark Star-Ledger (March 29, 2006). While the facility is on the list of approved special education schools in Massachusetts, no children from New Jersey attend it.

New Jersey state spokesman Ed Rogan noted that the state has “‘suspended any new referrals’” because it “‘wants to create a culture of positive behavior management.’”

Israel countered that “‘if a child under the age of 21 was sent here because he needed the treatment and New Jersey removes him (when he becomes an adult), it would be extremely unfortunate for the family.’”

But isn’t it extremely unfortunate that those three New Jersey adults and how many other developmentally disabled individuals receive such “treatment”?

New Jersey pays $624,000 a year to the Massachusetts facility, and spends between $25,000 to $250,000 year to pay for care for 545 developmentally disabled individuals (including some with autism) in out-of-state placements. New Jersey lawmakers are currently considering a bill called “Billy’s Law,” according to which site visits to out-of-state placements would become the standard. The law is named after Billy Albanese of Brooklyn, who was injured while being physically restrained more than ten years ago at Bancroft NeuroHealth in Haddonfield, New Jersey.

My son Charlie was physically restrained to control his self-injurious behavior on and off for two years while attending public school. If he is upset and even minimal physical contact is applied, Charlie becomes instantly aggressive and can hurt himself and other people. For Charlie, teaching appropriate replacement behaviors–speech skills that answer his communication needs, academics like reading that address his cognitive abilities–has been the best and the most measurably effective way to deal with his most challenging behaviors. Teaching Charlie is a long and gradual process—it takes lot more patience and effort than administering a “skin sting” with a machine–but teaching yields real and lasting results, and the loveliest of smiles from my lovely boy.

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