(Inside: Autism Speaks partners with abusive “therapy” center, Judge Rottenberg Center. JRC has recently fought for and won the right to torture disabled students, and now Autism Speaks is featuring them as a provider.)
Because I’m autistic, my son is autistic, and I’m an outspoken autism advocate, roughly 80% of the news stories I see on Facebook revolve around autism or another disability.
Sometimes they’re news stories about random people being kind to autistic people, which shouldn’t be news… but that’s another blog posts.
Sometimes it’s terrifying news about a caregiver harming their autistic family member.
This time? It was a story about a court case involving the Judge Rotenberg Center.
This is where I add a content warning: this post discusses abuse of autistics and ableism. There aren’t any overly graphic descriptions, but abuse is discussed.
The Judge Rotenberg Center is the ONLY center in the United States that still uses electric shock therapy on disabled people.
It’s horrifying, but they actually won a court case recently, that protects their right to torture the autistic and otherwise disabled people in their care.
You can read more about that here.
And now? In a move that shouldn’t be shocking at all… Autism Speaks has partnered with this abusive “therapy” center.
Autism Speaks Partners With Abusive “Therapy” Center
Now, if you don’t know about Autism Speaks, I wrote an entire post here about why I cannot and will not support them.
The basics? They don’t actually help any autistic people.
In fact, they promote really harmful stereotypes and ideals, and they cause a lot of fear and othering for autistic people.
I’ll get more into the details later, but first… Let’s cover the Judge Rotenberg Center.
What is the Judge Rotenberg Center
The Judge Rotenberg Center, formerly known as the Behavior Research Institute, an institution that accepted students with severe neurological, developmental, or behavioral disabilities. With its no-rejection and no-expulsion policies, it is a go-to institution for students who are kicked out everywhere else.
The methodology used at JRC is largely made up of aversive interventions – that is, students experienced ‘punishment’ when they displayed unwanted behaviors.
These aversive interventions can include slaps, food and/or sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, physical restraint, and more.
In the early 90’s, the founder, Matthew Israel, decided to start using electric shock as an aversive, and he was forced to move the center from Rhode Island to Massachusetts so that he could legally torture the disabled students in his care.
The center uses a specially designed device that students have attached to various body parts. When the student displays an unwanted behavior, teachers or other staff press a button and the disabled student receives a shock more powerful than that of a police taser.
It’s barbaric. It’s horrific. And it continues to this very day.
(You can read more about the history of the JRC here)
In fact, the center was recently given the go-ahead to continue torturing their students…
“The Massachusetts governor’s office sued to stop the practice in 2013. But Judge Katherine Fields of the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, ruled last week that the state failed to demonstrate that the procedure “does not conform to the accepted standard of care for treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities”.” — source
Autism Speaks and Judge Rotenberg Partnership
Now, what does that have to do with Autism Speaks?
Well. Autism Speaks hosts something called “Walk Now for Autism”.
I’m sure I’ll eventually write a post on all of the problematic parts of that event, but for this post, I’m focusing on one thing…
One of the “service providers” being featured at the event? The Judge Rottenberg Center.
Autism Speaks is actually advertising for and recommending the center that tortures autistic and other disabled people on a daily basis.
A center where at least six students have died as a direct result of their “aversive interventions”.
And Autism Speaks, one of the most popular and powerful autism organizations has allied with them.
Autism Speaks is a Hate Organization
The fact is… Autism Speaks is a hate organization.
I don’t say that lightly, it’s true.
Not only does Autism Speaks not help any autistic people, they are also incredibly harmful.
Their marketing techniques push the idea that autism is an “epidemic” and some big bad monster that steals children.
They push therapies with the goal to make autistic people act more neurotypical.
They pursue research for causes, cures, and prevention of autism, and they completely disregard the opinions of the autistic community.
And now? Now they’re allying with the Judge Rottenberg Center, a center that recently fought for and won their right to continue torturing autistic students.
I wish there were a way to end this post well. I wish I could tie this up with a bow and give you actionable steps…
But I’m at a loss.
It took me days to write this post. Days filled with tears, breaks, wine, coffee, vents to my husband and my best friend.
I finally got the words out, but I’m afraid I’m out of words.
The fact is, disabled people in the US are denied the basic human right of protection from torture. And the Autism Speaks organization has allied with them.
That’s all there really is to say.
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