June 6th, 2012
06:22 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: FDA inspected school using shocks on students

A Massachusetts school for special needs students uses a controversial method for trying to control the children's behavior. They administer electric shocks. The number of shocks and the reason for using the device is at the discretion of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) staff.

JRC has students as young as 3-years-old. Their website says they've provided "very effective education and treatment to both emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors."

One graphic video, that school officials didn't want the public to see, shows Cheryl McCollins' autistic son Andre receiving 31 electric shocks in a seven hour timeframe. McCollins was distraught about the treatment and wants JRC shut down.

Other parents and school officials stand by the "aversive therapy." Marie Washington told Anderson that JRC saved her son's life by treating him without the need for medications.

Anderson spoke with state Senator Brian Joyce who has been fighting to close the school and end the shock treatments. "This is based largely on a discredited pseudo-science from 70 or 80 years ago...it is truly a barbaric practice, " he said.

This is part of a statement JRC gave to CNN today:

“Senator Joyce is once again making false statements when faced with compelling evidence of the efficacy of aversive procedures. The “army” of people “descending” on the Massachusetts State House that he refers to are not “lobbyists and lawyers.” They are dozens of parents of JRC students who visit the State House to inform the legislators about how aversive therapy saved their child’s life when no other treatment would work. Senator Joyce refuses to meet with these parents and makes false statements about who is seeking protection for this treatment because this information contradicts his political agenda. Senator Joyce has never visited JRC and tried to learn about the school, the treatment, and the people that depend on the treatment to keep them safe from permanent physical injury or death.”

Senator Joyce will be on the program tonight to respond.

Anderson will also tell you about developments in the investigation and new information about an upcoming U.S. Senate hearing related to JRC.

Plus, Tom Foreman is looking into the FDA's report on the shock device. They won't release it or grant an interview. Tune in at 8 and 10pm ET and let us know what you think on Twitter @AC360.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Autism
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Monica Werner

    They are now completely obsolete treatments can be considered a crime, and terrible video.

    June 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  2. Jayme

    The fact that this is even up for debate is the most disturbing. Since when is torture up for debate?

    June 7, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Lucy Albergaria

      Torture?,,, these kids are beyond your comprehension ... they come from all over this country ... their parents have no other avenue ... they have impulse control problems ... if they don't rip your face off, they will rip their own face off ... these aren't your typical mentally challenged children ... many of these kids are savants with amazing IQs .... if only people could understand ... obviously, people buy the media slant ... nice job ...

      June 8, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  3. Gary C, Beck

    Contact the department of social services, report the shocking of Autistic people.

    June 7, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  4. Lucy Albergaria

    I'm so sad that people are so blind to what this program is about...I worked there in 1995 and it was the biggest eye opening experiance of my life...so much love and care...this is not your normal my child has special needs program...this is children that many states in the U.S. courts have approved program and do not want to deal with them...parents do have a choice...does my child live in 24 hour restraints and so drugged up that they are zombies , put them in a prison type of program so they do not kill themselves or others...part of my training was that every 30 to 60 seconds I would have to find something positive in what the behaviors was and touch them in a loving way and mention to them how great they were...and yes sometimes I would have to say "good job for not pulling your hair out or banging your head against the wall" wake up America...they lived in amazing homes, had great meals, good schools, amazing feild trips when contracts were not broken...I loved these kids and no one ever cared about them like we did....Anderson I think you are great, but unless you have worked with these children there is no way you can even cover this story

    June 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  5. vicky

    America is torturing disabled children because we no longer have Democracy. America is also murdering it's own people and molesting children.

    June 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  6. Raigh Anderson

    This is nothing more than abuse...there is nothing therapeutic in 'electrical shocks' to these individuals.
    Politicians in Massachusetts must close this 'house-of-horrors'.
    Have any of the parents of these individuals been evaluated for 'abusive tendencies'?
    What parent would allow their child to undergo such abuse under the guise of 'treatment'?

    June 6, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Maria

      My son was on psychotropic medication because of his violent behavior. He did not know what was going on around him. He was prescribed many different medications for about a year prior to him going to JRC. He would hurt himself and he would punch, kick, spit at. He still needs supervision 24/7, but now and OFF medication. We can go out in public and I don't have to worry about him running across a busy intersection. As parents, we don't have very many options. I saw my son on the medication and it was sickening. I couldn't stand to see him in that zombified state. You have to walk a mile in someones shoes before you judge someone.

      June 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  7. Griff

    "This years election is about kids, more than you want to talk about! I suppose you feel yourself well enough schooled to pick up in most fields?? I know different, infact I know most tof the media lack the skiill's for what is need in/for the next five years. It used to take 20yrs when I was a kid, to do the same catch up they do in five years now. They have time and tools on their side, and that's the problem for those already employed?? Very soon there will be a collision!"

    June 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  8. LuAnn Ranalet

    Your story about "shock therapy" on autistic kids in Massachusetts at the JRC makes me sick. In the video, I don't even see what the student was doing wrong, when the student was shocked. Regardless of whether or not he did anything "wrong", there is absolutely no reason to justify this practice anywhere. I have a 17 year old son who is autistic and verbally impaired. He came home about 5 years ago with red marks on his back, arms, chest, the base of his skull and his finger was bruised. After trying to get in touch with someone at his school who knew what happened, and failing to get that information, I called, then wrote to the Dept. of Ed. in Georgia about this incident and about restraining children in general and was told they were working on this issue of restraining children and seclusion in a locked room. Now they have done away with the locked room and I informed my son's school not to use restraints on him. There are other things they can do...like be proactive and be aware of behavior triggers, like loud noises, crowds of people, etc. His teachers at his previous school would stand over him and make him sit in his seat and not let him get up until he "did his work". The teacher huddled over him got her tooth knocked loose when he bucked his head backwards. My husband and I were told in an IEP meeting by the principal that there was low moral among the teachers and parapros in that room because of my son. Until people who work with people with autism get needed training, these incidents will continue to happen. I just know that I better not hear that my son has been restrained again. I have witnessed two adults restraining a student at my son's school and I left in tears.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  9. Griff

    "Coop! Coop! Coop! Have you listened???? It's the anxiety of treatment, and not the treatment itself. If I said I was going to puch you, you would know it. But the anxiety of depression, and then just none timed treatment, that's the problem! Even the patient needs to know, the benefits!"

    June 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm |