On another list I read about this CNN blog discussing the Rotenberg Center. You can also read the transcript for the whole show. The Rotenberg segment is in the second half. Some of you may not have heard of the Judge Rotenberg Center. This from the transcript sums it up pretty well.
"Antwone Nicholson's school looks more like Disneyland than a place for kids with special needs. There are pinball machines and cartoon characters, wax figures and artwork punctuate with cornflower blues and vivid pinks. Each student has a computer, healthy food, plush quarters, heavy supervision, and constant attention.
Why then would Antwone's mother, Evelyn Nicholson, be fighting like mad to get him out of this place?
Because along with the perks at this center for troubled children come the punishments. The Judge Rotenberg Center claims to be the only one in the country using electric shock aversion therapy. They call it the Graduated Electronic Decelerator, the GED. And half their students go to school each day tethered to electrodes housed in a fanny pack"
Parents have to sign consent forms for this form of punishment, which is illegal in many states. But Antwone's New York school district is happy to spend tax dollars sending Antwone out of state for a treatment that is illegal in New York. It reminds me of extreme rendition.
The scariest thing about this is not the attitude of Matthew Israel, the executive director of the Judge Rotenberg Center and his staff. After all, you would expect them to believe in what they are doing. What really scares me is the fact that 216 children have been subject to this "treatment" with parental consent over the last 16 years and the segment suggests that many of the victims support it as well.
I recently came across another report in which barbaric treatment was justified because the outcome was highly valued. But in this case it was not about reducing unwanted behaviours, but preserving and enhancing a valuable one, the pure singing of the boy soprano, by castrating him.
For three hundred years, mainly in Italy poor families sought fame and fortune by castrating their sons.
In 17th and 18th Century Italy, about 4,000 boys were castrated each year, from the age of eight upwards, with the aim of making a fortune as opera singers and soloists with choirs in churches and royal palaces.
Most of them did not make it. But for those who did there were enormous rewards alongside the adulation of the oh so civilized opera cognoscenti who would applaud performances with cries of "Eviva il coltello" ("Long live the knife!")
In case anyone thinks I am guilty of a gross misrepresentation in making this comparison, let me state:
I am not condemning the parents; neither the poor Italians who considered that anything was better than the future that their lives held for their children, nor those parents today, who are led to believe by those who claim knowledge and expertise, that anything is better than the future that autism holds for their children.
All I am saying is that once upon a time, what are by today's standards unacceptable means, were acceptable because the end result was so highly valued. When it comes to autism we should always be wary, lest our hopes and ambitions for our children blind us to the true nature of the cost we impose upon them. And we should be especially wary of those latter day cognoscenti who applaud and encourage us to take our children down extreme paths in pursuit of a chimerical cure.
Nobody is suggesting that we take a knife to our children, of course. But how much more civilized is the chemical castration being touted by the Geiers? "Eviva il Lupron" anybody?