What’s happening at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), which if you didn’t see the video floating around social media…viewer discretion is advised.

For an institution of children and adults with developmental disabilities to utilize an electronic shock device called a Gradual Electronic Decelerator (GED) is mind-blowing to say the least that this is allowed in today’s day and age. I highly recommend doing your own research about the JRC and signing the petition!

I wanted to share from a BCBAs standpoint as to why I do not agree with this “form” of therapy.

  1. Punishment practices of any kind prove highly ineffective. Not only are they unethical, but they diminish rapport with the caregiver and any improvements in behavior tend to revert once the intervention is removed. Not to mention that punishment procedures don’t teach the expected or appropriate behavior. Physical punishment in particular constitutes cruelty and does not support or encourage behavior development.
  2. Any intervention on behavior should be appropriate to the behavior. For instance, any reinforcement strategies should be directly linked to the behavior it’s targeting. This is a tried and true practice of ABA and ensures that the behavior change will last with only nature to help it out. An example would be, once you finish your chores, you are given free time to play. This concept lasts over time without anyone need to add anything to it. Implementing painful stimuli for stimming is not natural, not related to the behavior and is outrageously inhumane.
  3. Stimming is generally a harmless behavior that aids in self regulation. Unless it interferes with learning, it is best left alone. Everyone needs something that helps them decompress. It is not the role of the practitioner to take away a child’s method of regulation.
  4. As practitioners, we need to be ultimately sensitive to the fact that our patients often cannot speak for themselves. Any of our practices should aim to promote independence, and our first priority is the safety and well-being of our patients. The use of shock therapy violates the very essence of our mission.
  5. Speaking as a practitioner, I urge my fellow colleagues to speak out against any practice that implements painful stimuli as a behavioral intervention. It is our duty as advocates of children with disabilities to strive to increase independence and do so using reinforcement-based interventions. We are sworn to treat our patients with dignity and empathy, and shock therapy goes against the very basics of ethical and compassionate care. As a parent, I urge everyone to speak out against shock therapy – for our children cannot speak for themselves. It’s our job to protect them through thoughtful evaluation of practices

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