I never attended an inclusive school. For many years I was in boarding “special” schools. It was a little bit like living in institutions, luxurious ones.
Some good things happened in the last one I attended. I made lifelong friends and I learned a lot about arts, literature, nature and the world – comparing to what I would not have learned in an ordinary “special” school, my only other option at the time.
There were some bad things happening there too. Their philosophy was a praised one, the campus was beautiful, the “success” stories of “inspiring” disabled children, once so “difficult”, were a good advertisement tool.
Most people were nice and caring, although they were also ableists. I will not write about this today. I want to talk about the fact that even in that beautiful place, full of well meaning people, there was abuse.
Nobody died or ended up in the emergency room. The abuse was in the form of hair pulling, arm-twisting, refusal of giving us food, all because we were “non-compliant”. It was easy for them to get away with any abuse. They were prepared – with staged talks, the “perfect family” picture – for when guests came for a visit.
But I don’t want to write about my experience either.
I want to write about another place, another beautiful school for disabled and “at risk” youth with “severe behavioral problems”.
Like the school I attended, this place is also a residential complex. Unlike my old school, abuse there is not something that happens because of a few people. At this place, abuse is the norm. Worse, it is advertised as therapy or treatment, sometimes families being misled; it is accepted as valid and lawful; and financed by taxpayers.
I am talking about the Judge Rotenberg Center, or JRC, in MA.
The JRC has been involved in lawsuits about their dangerous, unethical and demeaning treatment of the residents. The cases that draw more attention and outrage are the repetitive electric shocks the students are submitted to, for any reason, or no reason at all.
Yet the Massachusetts legislators have repeatedly failed to forbid taxpayer money to pay for the torture of students behind those walls, or to close the place.
It is torture when you are shocked for asking a question.
It is torture when you are shocked for refusing to take off your jacket.
It is torture when you are woken up in the middle of the night to receive more shocks.
Autistic Hoya has all you need to know about the JRC. There is a Facebook page for updates. There is also an excellent account of events surrounding the JRC in the anthology “Loud Hands – Autistic People, Speaking”, written by Shain Neumeier, Esq.
I am writing about this because the JRC relies on state agencies to pay for the torture of disabled students. They count on families’ testimonials but these families don’t know what really happens. They might agree with an electric shock “treatment” for a specific situation – sometimes families are led to believe this type of “therapy” is the only effective one, which is a lie – but are not told that the students are shocked for anything, all the time.
Some families are simply cohorts, claiming that their children are hurting themselves, and they need to stop the self-injurious behavior. Then, they send their children to the JRC so that someone else can hurt them. And you might be paying for the torture.
Recently, the state of New York decided that it would not pay for placements in facilities that use aversives on disabled students. The JRC lost, and will continue to lose, a lot of money from all the New York students who attended their campus.
That has not stopped them, though. Now the JRC is recruiting disabled students in the Midwest, taking their false allegations of effective “treatment” to other parts of the country.
It is not treatment, it is torture.
The United Nations say so.
It cannot be done to prisoners, not even terrorists.
It is called inhumane if done to animals.
Yet, it has been done to the disabled with impunity.
I could be one of my brothers and sisters being tortured at the Judge Rotenberg Center. I was non-compliant, behavioral intervention did not achieve what the therapists wanted. But I am lucky because I found understanding and motivation through respect, love and acceptance.
Help us educate all families about the reality behind the JRC walls. No human being should be subject to torture, especially when they are being tortured for being themselves, for standing up for their rights, even when they are not fully aware of their self-advocacy.
They are being tortured because they are disabled, seen as less than human.
Our fight to close the Judge Rotenberg Center is a fight to end torture.
This is what happens at the JRC when you refuse to take off your coat :
Amy Sequenzia is an Autistic activist, writer, and poet. Read more here , on her blog at Non-Speaking Autistic Speaking and on Autism Women’s Network.
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“My name is Amy and I am autistic. Some of you know me or have read my articles.
I was invited to present at this year’s AutCom Conference. I travel with a support person and the trip gets a little expensive.
I want to be able to go to AutCom and present because it is important that we, autistics, are heard when the conversation is about autism. As a non-speaking activist, I want to show that we all have a lot to share.
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