Electric shocks used to control autistic students
In what may be the only school in America to use what is called “aversion therapy,”* the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts administers 2-second electric shocks to control aggressive behavior by their students and to prevent severely autistic students from injuring themselves or others. The private school said in a statement that “while this therapy is not intended for everyone, it is lifesaving and highly effective as a strategy to control violent and self-destructive behaviors.”
Antwone Nicholson was 13 when he first started at JRC. Although he attended for four years, he pleaded with his mother to remove him. When she first enrolled her son at the school, Mrs. Evelyn Nicholson signed a statement authorizing this form of school discipline. She explained that it was overused in situations other than those to prevent Antwone from hurting himself or others.
Antwone’s mother filed a lawsuit in 2006 claiming a violation of civil rights and inhumane treatment. The school responded by saying only 20% of their students were subjected to the therapy and only if positive reinforcement failed to control the students’ behavior.
In November, 2010, the case was settled for $65,000. Mrs. Nicholson commented that it was time to move on and that her legal battle had resulted in changes in the school’s policy regarding the administration of the aversion therapy.
Antwone is now 21, lives at home with his mother and still has flashbacks from the treatment.
“Aversion therapy” is defined as therapy intended to change habits or anti-social behavior by inducing a dislike of something through stimulus such as electric shock.