Thursday, May 06, 2010

There is *NO* excuse

A U.S. school for the disabled tortures its students with electroshock and long-term restraint.

As someone who once worked as a teacher in a center for BD children, I am appalled. We had some seriously ill children in our care, but we never -- *ever* -- resorted to anything like this. The most we ever did was restrain a child who was physically out of control in a non-painful and temporary manner, then escort him to a safe place like an administrator's office where he could reflect on the fact that his classmates were having a fun time up in the classroom. Because that's how we controlled the kids -- by making sure they had a good time as long as they behaved appropriately, making sure they knew at all times what appropriate behavior was expected of them, what good things would happen if they displayed appropriate behavior, and what the consequences would be if they did not behave (generally loss of privileges such as not being able to play with the toys after finishing their work to acceptable standards).

Granted, I was lucky enough to be working with verbal children. But even with non-verbal autistic children engaging in self-mutilation activities that you must stop for the safety of the child, only temporary short-term use could be justified in response to that one specific behavior that is a danger to that child -- *not* as a blanket "punish the kid whenever he doesn't do what I want" measure.

Positive reinforcement *works*. All that punishment like electric shock does is make sadists chortle with glee, and teach children to be fearful, resentful, and avoidant. It doesn't teach children appropriate behavior, and it doesn't make children want to display appropriate behavior, all it teaches children is that adults are sadists. As someone who has worked in that environment, I can say explicitly that there is nothing -- *NOTHING* -- that can justify what the Judge Rotenberg Center for the Disabled has done. My suspicion is that they started out using electroshock for the case that I mention in the previous paragraph. But it is clear that once they used it for that specific case, the ease of use -- and the glee that sadists feel at torturing children -- have led to a situation that is, bluntly, inexcusable torture.

- Badtux the Former Special Ed Teacher Penguin


  1. My sister works with Sp.Ed. and some are non-verbal. She has the patience of a saint, and a small teacher/aide to student ratio. She would agree with you, no excuse for this.

  2. I commented before I read the article. That's horrifying and my stomach is roiling. How can those people work there?

  3. There's nothing I can add.


  4. Tux, this guy was not running a school, he was running a warehouse to profit from state subsidies for the care of these students. Using the Invisible Fence vests let him keep the number of his employees down to the state minimum at minimum wage. Those employees kept quiet because they probably couldn't get a job anywhere else. The school was run out of two states before MA and will probably be run out of several more unless somebody shoots the good doctor first.

  5. more than ten times the amperage of a typical stun gun.

    Seems like that would kill anyone based on what I've seen stun guns do.

    I rate autistic children on a scale of one to ten and at times wonder why we bother to keep some of them alive being as they will always be vegetables and never be able to make it through life on their own or contribute to society in anyway.

    I'm not talking about the highly functioning autistic though, but there are damn few of them. A few of them have given us some useful things.

    But I sometimes wonder just how much the taxpayers want to put out to support a lot of people that will never be able to help themselves.

    However, their parents, especially their mothers, get really good at working on the compassion of others to get help for their bad sperm cells.

    Interesting stuff to study and ponder on. A thousand years ago they were wise enough to just let them die or kill them. We haven't gotten any smarter at all.

  6. BBC:
    Your response sounds great. After we get rid of the autistic kids, can we start on the old, the infirm, the abandoned? And maybe then get rid of the less intelligent; they're such a drag.
    Oh, just a technical point: but it wouldn't be the mother's bad sperm cells, they would have to be the father's sperm cells. Of course, the mom's might have had bad eggs, or done foolish things while getting pregnant.
    Nunya: I read the article, and then the comments. If some of the responders really are parents of some of the children involved, the story is more complex than it would appear. Unless those parents were just so relieved at not having to deal with such a hopeless situation that they are forcing themselves to believe that it is for the best.
    The best response to this would be of course, better prenatal care and research into the causes of autism and other mental afflictions. With more in-uterine diagnosis, and giving women the option to terminate their pregnancies earlier in the cycle. Which is also murder, according to the pro-life movement: but I don't see them lining up to give wonderful loving homes to these unfortunate children. I think too much about these things, and end up unable to see anything but shades of right and wrong in all choices.

  7. BBC, I haven't noticed that you're adding anything to this world either. In fact, my tax dollars are supporting your whiney butt right now thanks to Social Security, which will pay out to you far more than you ever paid in. So why don't you report to the gas chambers right after the autistic kids?

    SeDress: Non-verbal autistic children in particular are prone to self-stimulation behaviors that are dangerous to themselves, such as gouging themselves with their fingernails, banging their head, etc. There is a limited case for negative reinforcement in that case because you are trying to reduce the incidence of an undesired behavior. But the whole goal of a school for children with behavior disorders is to teach them how to behave like normal children, and if the environment is not based overwhelmingly upon teaching children the behaviors and coping mechanisms they need to survive normally in society, which means positive reinforcement of desired behaviors as the predominant theme, the children will never learn how to behave normally. Yes, I'm sure the parents will be overjoyed that the child who was once a handful now sits meekly at the kitchen table without once throwing food or cursing them out, but that relief on their part isn't going to help the kid fit into normal society. He's just going to be a neurotic mess for the rest of his life (it's called "avoidant behavior", and is what happens when a kid gets too much punishment during childhood and not enough positive reinforcement, the kid never learns how to interact normally with other people).

    - Badtux the Behaviorist Penguin

  8. Oh, just a technical point: but it wouldn't be the mother's bad sperm cells,

    Don't preach to me, I know all about that crap,it's just the way I worded it. It can be inherited or it can be a spiked fever that shorts some things out.

    Bad Tux, fuck you, I've always made my own way, your tax dollars isn't doing shit for me, it's going to the bottom feeders.

    And I've done a lot of volunteer work over the years and helped others a lot with my own money. How fucking much of it have you done?

  9. BadTux:
    So is there anything that can be done to help someone who has been taught this 'avoidant behavior'?
    And what do you think of the push to mainstream every child, throwing them all into the public school system. My local school system ends up having to hire full time personal assistants for some children. There's just no way the classroom teacher can deal with 25-30 'normal' children and also cope with someone who's in the class but incapable of functioning as a part of that class without massive intervention.
    BBC: Sounds like you have some anger issues. Good luck in working on those. If you'd read some of Badtux's past blogs, you'd notice that he seems to be very much involved and caring about his fellow humans. Perhaps we could all post time and cash spreadsheets showing just how much volunteer work we've done, and earn blog posting points accordingly.

  10. SeD, I don't have any magic bullet other than time. It's like when you're dealing with a dog that's been whipped, that cringes and trembles when you approach it. What's the answer? I don't know, other than to wish there really was a God, because He surely would have struck down with lightning anyone who dared do such a thing to a dog or a child.

    Regarding mainstreaming, special education children clearly benefit from being around "normal" children, even the lesser functioning children benefit from the stimulation and interaction. But as with all good things, in moderation. There are some skills that must be explicitly taught to kids who truly belong in special ed (as vs. being flavor of the day kids in special ed because their parents view it as a way to get more resources for their child's education) that simply are not/cannot easily be taught in a regular classroom even with a full-time assistant. Who, BTW, is cheaper than a dedicated special ed classroom w/teacher and assistant for six to ten children, due to better marginal utility of the school facilities and not needing to hire that expensive special ed teacher... so don't think of that as an argument against mainstreaming.

    So I guess once again I don't have an easy answer. As H.L. Mencken once said, "There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat,
    plausible, and wrong." I.e., if someone says there's an easy answer, run, run the other way, because said person is a charlatan and a liar. Just like those charlatans at the Judge Rotenberg Center who say that electroshock is the easy solution to all problems.

    BTW, BBC, it's called compassion. Societies which possess that quality seem to survive better than societies which lack it. It turns out that a nurturing society is better able to maximize its use of its human capital as compared to a society where everybody is dog-eat-dog trying to keep each other down. Being an ornery misanthropic crank can be satisfying, as I know from personal experience, but in the end isn't good for either you or for society as a whole.

    - Badtux the Somewhat-misanthropic Penguin


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