ABAI finally condemns Judge Rotenberg Center 

D’Juanna Lester, Arts Reporter

Death. Shock therapy. Starvation. Abuse of autistic children. All of these horrific factors take place at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts.

Currently the only location in the United States that uses shock therapy, this institution has been in operation since 1971 by “behaviorist utopian community” enthusiast Matthew Israel.

Despite the decades-long plea from autistic advocates for the place to be shut down, there has been no government intervention, no mainstream coverage — nothing from anyone outside of disability advocates. It’s disappointing, but if you’re disabled, not surprising at all.

Over the past week, Applied Behavioral Analysis International (ABAI) — an organization that promotes behavioral analysis — finally changed their position on electric shocks being used for controlling behavior. According to autisticadvocacy.org, the Judge Rotenberg Center has been a sponsor and presenter at the ABAI conference for years.

This decision is long overdue, but it has finally happened. The issue is that the institution is still allowed to remain open.

While the ABAI claims to not support this form of torture, they have clearly promoted Judge Rotenberg Center instead of condemning them. If the biggest “advocates” for the autistic community are actively supporting inhumane torture, where do we go from here? What are the steps that need to be taken for this place to finally close? 

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture condemned electric shocks being used back in 2012. It’s been a decade, and the JRC is still in operation. So what happens now?

The fact that a place like this has very little attention in this prime age of social media usage is astounding to me. It’s an unfortunate situation that has very little public knowledge, and that is infuriating. 

Letters from survivors over the years cite that people inside the “school” are subjected to various amounts of shocks for doing even the smallest things such as refusing to take off a coat or stimming. Stimming is a prominent thing with autism, a self-stimulatory behavior that can include rocking back and forth, repetitive noises or body movements or hands flapping, to list a few examples. 

Stimming is a natural, uncontrollable thing. It just happens. The fact that people are being horrifically punished for doing something that is natural for their bodies is despicable. It’s inhumane and disgusting. Parents are sending their children here, and this is what they’re having to live through. 

Ever since the institution was founded in 1971, there have been six reported deaths. Methods like these have led to the deaths of six innocent people. People are tortured and face tragic outcomes in this center, and that is unacceptable. 

There needs to be some kind of intervention. There is no reason for a place like this to continue to be allowed to operate and cause detrimental — and in some cases, fatal — harm to disabled students like this. No one deserves to be subjected to this disgusting behavior.

This can not be accepted anymore. The Judge Rotenberg Center needs to be shut down immediately.