ABA Journal


The National Pulse

A Question of Education: For Some Parents, Shock Treatments Are Only Hope for Helping Their Kids

Jan 1, 2013, 09:30 am CST


I cannot speak to the use of shock therapy for children with disabiities, but I can advocate for its use among adults with mental illness.  My mother’s schizophrenia, complete with classic delusions about the CIA planting chips in her brain, UFOs following her, etc., began when I was young.  After her first breakdown/first delusions, my father took her to a well-regarded mental health hospital, which at the time—in the late 60s—administered shock therapy.  Her delusions immediately stopped and she was able to function as a parent and full person for about the next 9 years.  The next time she had a breakdown and her delusions resurfaced, she was divorced from my father and the mental health laws had dramatically changed so that it was virtually impossible for other family members to get her treatment, and, as far as I know, it would be virtually impossible to have shock therapy again, esp without her consent, despite the fact that her brain was unable to process information properly from “the real world.”  She never had shock therapy again, and she was never a fully functioning person again, despite periodic “talk therpay” and much medication.  So, at that point, I essentially lost my mother.

Fast forward to 2010.  That year, my mother in law,  who has a history of depression and was under a lot of stress, was staying with us for several months, when she started having paranoid delusions.  As she was delusional, she, of course, didn’t think anything was wrong with her and would not see a doctor here.  Her husband then came to the U.S. and took her back to their home country—which permits electric shock, as well as non-consent mental health admissions.  She then received electro shock and her delusions immediatley vanished.  She was still depressed, however, but after meds and talk therapy, that has largely been resolved as well.  I have no doubt that if her husband was not able to take her to a country with a better mental health system, my husband would have essentially lost his mother as I did, and my MIL would have lost the chance to be a true grandmother, as she is now.

I think it is a crime that electro shock is equated with torture.  I know it works miracles for some people.

So, I persogot the treatment she got, along with some talk therpay and meds.  The elct

By C. M. Lee on 2013 01 18, 3:04 pm CST

I think that this is a different type of shock, I don’t think that there is much question that electroshock can be useful in controlling extreme depression etc. but this was for behavior modification, like spanking etc.

By dsrtwren on 2013 01 18, 7:30 pm CST

There is absolutely no justification for using aversive “therapy” on children with disabilities. It isn’t therapy, it is torture, plain and simple. These children learn to live in fear. They no longer trust those who are supposed to protect them. How this place remains in operation just astounds me. How what these children are being put through is not seen as a human rights violation is just beyond me.

By Tawnea Lawry on 2013 01 18, 9:53 pm CST

Here is the account of an Autistic woman who was tortured at the Judge Rotenberg Center by means of electric shock and other forms of aversive “treatment.”


(Seizure warning: video flickers.). Here is the video of Andre McCollins being shocked repeatedly while restrained.  His dangerous and aggressive behaviors?  Refusing to take off his coat, screaming in pain at the shocks, and tensing up his body in fear.

These serve as stark examples of why the human rights of disabled people and children can’t be forced to take the back seat to parental choice, but there are plenty of others where the JRC is concerned.  Instead of defending outmoded, ineffective and inhumane practices, help end the torture.

By Shain Neumeier on 2013 01 18, 10:27 pm CST

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