The Judge Rotenberg Center is on trial, legally, for negligence in the 31 shocks and hours of restraint that Andre McCollins suffered at the hands of JRC staff and in the court of public opinion, finally, for its decades of use of skin shocks by a device Matthew Israel created.

In March, I called on Autism Speaks and the Autism Society to condemn the JRC. Yesterday, Autism Speaks issued a statement. Today, I received an email from the Autism Society providing their statement:

The Autism Society exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism by increasing awareness, advocating for appropriate services across the lifespan and providing honest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. In 1995, the Autism Society adopted its Options Policy. The policy promotes active and informed involvement of individuals with autism and their families in planning individualized services and supports. Individuals should be empowered to make informed decisions on the treatment options most appropriate for the needs of themselves or a loved one. Selection of a program, service or treatment should be on the basis of a full assessment, should enhance natural family and community supports, be outcome-based and result in measurable improvements to quality of life. The Autism Society’s Options Policy clearly states that abusive treatment of any kind is not an option. 

The Autism Society is distressed by a video shown in court this week that shows a young adult being restrained and shocked at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), a facility for individuals with developmental disabilities in Canton, Massachusetts. The Autism Society does not support the use of electric shock therapy on any individual. Accounting for all we know about autism today, electric shock therapy is an archaic practice that should be obsolete.  All individuals, no matter where they fall on the autism spectrum or how challenging their behaviors, deserve better from professional services. 

The Autism Society implores every service provider to be fully transparent in practice and to create individualized treatment plans that utilize a multi-disciplined approach. This approach should ideally involve additional professionals well-versed in the best practices of autism treatments. Outcomes of every treatment or service administered must be reviewed regularly with a critical eye to measured improvements. Before consenting to any approach, consumers of services must be fully informed of the potential benefits and risks as well as associated costs and available alternatives. The Autism Society has generated a list of questions that can help families evaluate programs, services and treatment options. In its Priorities of Professional Conduct, the Autism Society Panel of Professional Advisors states that the individual receiving treatment, parents or guardians must give full and free informed consent before a treatment is administered.
The practices of JRC have long been contested by the Autism Society and the broader autism community. The public scrutiny in response to an ongoing court case and subsequent release of video footage is a stark reminder to us all that we must be vigilant in our assurance that people on the autism spectrum are treated with dignity and respect in every situation.