Friday, 13 April 2012

Judge Rotenberg Center Lighting it up 'Electric Blue'

"What did you do at work today Daddy", said little Jimmy,  His father,  Big Mo replied,  "I administered electric shocks to non-verbal autistic children son".

Jimmy asked, "why do you do that Daddy?"

"Because they don't do as they are told son".

"Would you do that to me Daddy?"  Big Mo had to think a while and finally replied, "no son, you don't have autism silly."

This shocking new video shows how an autistic  teenage boy was tied up and given 31 electric shocks over seven hours by his laughing teachers and ended up in a coma.

The disturbing video (above) was released  11 April 2012. All the autism awareness campaigns in the world don't seem to be changing the hearts and minds of many of those who work with people who have autism. This video shows the kind of torture administered by the Judge Rotenberg Centre in Massachusetts USA, over the past three decades, to children and young people who have autism and who are in their 'care'.

The video shows a 2002 incident in which 18-year-old Andre McCollins was restrained, face-down, on the floor of a classroom, and then given 31 shocks—all because he had refused to take off his coat. The torture he received took place at the infamous Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, USA.

The young man is currently suing Rotenberg. His mother, Cheryl, testified  in court yesterday and said, "I never signed up for him to be tortured, terrorized, and abused. I had no idea—no idea—that they tortured the children in the school." More footage is expected to be shown in court today.

Why am I bringing your attention to this you may ask? After all, this blog is supposed to be about autism in Northern Ireland.

First off, I want our friends in the USA, whose children have been betrayed and tortured at this centre,to know that we in Northern Ireland are appalled and angry at the pain they and you  went through. Well, at least this blogger is appalled.

Second, don't believe  that this kind of abuse is isolated to torture centers like the Judge Rotenberg centre. We have lots of instances of 'torture' here in Northern Ireland, where adults who have autism still languish in 'mental' hospitals, where ill-informed medical staff drug and silence children with drugs both at home and at school and where children are removed from their families because an 'expert' believes the child exhibits signs of abuse as opposed to autism. See here to learn about the heartbreaking treatment inflicted upon Antrim teenager Katie Ryder.

The 'Light it up Blue' charade may have filled the coffers of charities, but it didn't do anything for autism 'awareness'.
Changing the hearts and minds of people regarding an issue does not happen by making charities richer. Some staff at the Rotenberg Center are probably uncomfortable with what they do and in fact some have left the center and told their experiences on the internet. As for those who stay, well, there are plenty of sociopaths and psychopaths in this world and they can justify their actions for a myriad of reasons. They absolve themselves of responsibility because someone else says it is ok or simply because they are getting away with it.  Tomes have been written on this kind of human behaviour.  The Judge Rotenberg Center Lights Kids Up Electric Blue.

Derry City Council in their recent news letter  here . refer to the real meaning of 'Light It Up Blue'. Alderman Devenney said,  “By lighting up the Council’s Civic Offices on the Strand Road blue for the month of April we are sending out a clear message that we are supportive of the work being done on the ground to offer help and support to families in the city and across Northern Ireland dealing with this disability. We hope that this gesture will create better awareness and understanding of the issue and raise much needed funds for the charity,” he commented.

What charity is that you say?  Autism NI of course, who else.  Much needed funds? Why? What do they do? Remind me?

By the way, for those of you who don't know, the 'Light It Up Blue' campaign for Autism Awareness Month was concocted by Autism Speaks in the USA, and had nothing to do with Autism NI, though I am sure the campaign was a nice earner for any organisation that supported it.  With so many staff to pay and with so many cuts to their funding, autism charity employees are all struggling to pay their mortgages and save for those holidays!.  

We have enough autism awareness now. Who doesn't know about autism? What we don't have is understanding and respect for persons who have autism. We don't have the voice of those individuals influencing changes where changes need to be made. Who is it that makes decisions regarding autism in Northern Ireland? Do any of those people have autism themselves? Does Arlene Cassidy of Autism NI have autism? Does Edwin Poots, our Health Minister have autism? Who do they consult when making decisions? Is there a formal process? I would sure like to know about it. Phoning a friend doesn't count.

Throwing money at charities and organisations does absolutely nothing for people who have autism. Yet, in Northern Ireland that's what you do - you give and give and you don't ask questions. You just assume all that lovely money is going to good use for those poor little autistic kids. (Like autism ends when adulthood begins)

When bad things happen, charities are the last to say anything about it unless it serves their interests. I have absolutely no doubt that atrocities similar to what happened and continue to happen at the Judge Rotenberg Center do happen here as well. You and I just don't hear about them.  See here: to learn about why care worker Edith McGaughey was struck off as a Social Worker in March this year for abusing her autistic clients at an Autism Initiatives home in Bangor. She's not the first.

As for charities, they tend not to poke their noses into affairs outside of the UK unless it suits them. Ok, Arlene Cassidy provided a free junket to Washington DC a few years back. About 12 politicos went I think.  This made her and her charity look good.  She also  'testified' at the Committee for Foreign Affairs last year. see here. When it suits, Autism NI gets 'international'. We will see if they internationally condemn the Judge Rotenberg Center. I somehow doubt it, they seem too busy trying convince local councils of the 'work' they do and of course, of the money they "need". 

Didn't Northern Ireland have plans to use children as guinea pigs at the Middletown Centre for Autism? Not one child has gone through the doors of Middletown. For that, I think, we can be grateful. Let it continue to be a white elephant, and a waste of money, as long as they keep their hands off of our children. When so-called 'experts' from Northern Ireland take control of your children, God knows what could happen.

I am praying for all the 'inmates' currently imprisoned at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton Massachusetts. It's 2012 but if you have autism it might as well be 1812.


Anonymous said...

please tell me u have a child with autism? If u dont than now dare u coment on how we dig r selves in trences and take orders, my daughter is 2yrs old and has asd and a lerning disablilty and i wont take order from no one im asking every question i can think of and i havent askf or any help from any charity, im doing this with the help of her ot and her st. I take great offence to them comments as a mother myself, i take on board what you r saying about money and it needs to be spen on other areas, but just sometimes think before u type. I will have no one tell me what to do and how to raise my daughter, i am her mother and i shall do what i think is right. I agree with everything else tho

AutismNorthernIreland said...

Thank you for comment. Yes, I have a child who has autism, though if you thought my comments were not accurate, I don't know what difference that would make.

Your daughter is two years old and someone has labelled her with a learning disability already?

None of my business, but isn't that a bit young to label a child (virtually a baby) as 'learning disabled'?

Did you agree with that diagnosis? Did you argue it or just accept based on someone elses opinion? Do you get my point?

With the greatest of respect, if you are relatively new to autism (your child is only 2, only just diagnosed??) you will encounter many people including SLT's and OT's 'telling' you what to do because your knowledge base about autism won't be very large and they think theirs is. An SLT or OT is not an autism 'expert' by any stretch of the imagination.

You may end up believing what they tell you because you don't know any better (unless of course, you are an autism expert with 20 years experience yourself?)

Kudos to you for having your daughter diagnosed so quickly.I doubt you live in Northern Ireland where such things do not happen without miracles.

Parents do dig their own trenches. The system is set up in the UK for someone 'else' to be the expert on your child and some parents simply cannot cope and are 'encouraged' to place their children in provision that is not appropriate if not downright damaging.

Much of that 'encouragement' is, in my opinion, a result of charities that do diddly squat and love to see tired vulnerable parents come in the door, hand them a tissue and a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on.

When the crying is done, however, there isnt much else they offer but by that time, the parent can feel 'understood' (translate patronised). Charities don't like warrior parents, it clashes with their mandate and that is to get as much money as they can.

I doubt you will be joining many charities.

As for my comments, they stand. It's unfortunately you find them offending but you can't please everybody.

desperate housewife said...

Anonymous, you are right to feel angry but direct it at the system- and as a parent of a kid with autism, I agree with the blog comments, SLTs & OTs are not autism experts, some of them are barely out of college but will come across as totally superior. My kid was diagnosed with LDs as well,we had to fight to get him placed in mainstream with the rest of our kids. He carried it on his statement all through primary school but his teachers (thankfully) ignored it, teaching the kid, not the label because they could see he was learning fast. Come his pre-transfer review, the LDs mysteriously disappeared. If they had treated him as if he HAD LDs,going to a separate school miles away from home, would that have happened?

So be ambitious for your little girl, ask as many questions as possible & find out what steps you can take to help her learn , starting at 2 is a brilliant chance for 'early intervention'. This blog can be sharp but it is always (in my experience over the last couple of years) well-researched & well-founded. We don't need tea & sympathy! Worth a look at some back-posts for insights.

Anonymous said...

no i dont think that 2 is young to be diagnosed with LB, my daughter cant speak she has no understanding of toys, she just simple squeals or hums.

Yes i agree with the diagnosis as autism runs highly on her father side so does LD so im not new to autism or LD.. My daughter SLT is also on an ASD team.

Whwn i was carring y daughter i knew something wasnt right and when i give birth to her i knew and i know some people may thiing "aye right how can u tell" well i did that the only thing i can on that.

The consultants and ot and slt at the CDC she attends for nearly a year now have been so helpfull, i couldnt ask for anymore, they have taken time and listened to my every word and worries, i have asked what? why? when? and who.

i do believe my dughter has asd as i deal with her everyday!

As for u dughting i live in Northern Ireland, i do im from belfast.

I have been told from the start of my journey i will have have to fight for any help fight for everything.. When it came to it i havent i only had to wait 6 wks on a cdc appointment and been offered everything i could ask ofr and more i have been sent on courses to understand my daughter more. At any appontment i have been to i have always been asked what i thought and how do i feel and listened to.

Because of my daughters high sensory most of my daughters appointments r in my home as she just shuts down wen i take her out doors.

My daughter was 2yrs and 1 month when asd was formaly put to paper and i have been offered a nursey placement for her in sept and weh she reaches 4 other nursery placements close to where i live to with i feel lucky i dont have to travel miles n miles to take her.

I do feel i am one of the lucky ones a2ournd im sorry u feel that way about "our system" but i have to disagree.

As of yet i havent joined anything, i am her mother and its my job to look after her, i will always ask who> what ? why? and if i can think of any more questions ill ask them, i even take a note pas with me to any consult appointment incase i forget anything.

Am i over the top maybe by doing so, but i dont care.

'early intervention' is the key words that they have said to me time and time again and they have done that for me.

IM no good with words and im sorry if im not explaining myself very well, but just because your opinion it dont mean other people have to agree with it.

Im glad that you do this blog i have read it many times and i just want people to know things are changing in Northern Ireland

minervabradley said...

Thought I'd heard it all until I read about the trip to the USA for our deprived MLAs. Did an autism charity actually pay to take people who get a very good salary plus do what? What did they bring back here that has made a difference ?(I can bet it wasn't to find out about effective intervention projects like the Denver Early Start model).

So what did it cost & how did autism NI pay for this? When you or I drop money in one of their buckets is this being used to wine and dine & consume air miles with a load of people I probably wouldn't let past my front door (if I knew who they were) - and who know as much about autism as our dog (who at least has grown up with a kid with autism all day every day). Or did they get a grant? Who from, because if there's autism money going begging, it should go to kids & families.

can't write any more, too angry.

AutismNorthernIreland said...

Hi Minerva Bradley. See my post from a few years back (scroll down it to find the section regarding this trip)

Sinn Fein, DUP and other politicos were taken on a nice wee trip to Washington. As a freebie, government officials are required to divulge this kind of information. Only one person did (John McCallister) Unfortunately, the Assembly archive does not list 'registered interests' for the year 2007 so this link: will be of little use. But I did check it in 2009 when the 2007 year was listed. The only person on the trip who listed the trip as a 'registered interest' was Mr McCallister.

Jim Wells, Michelle O'Neill, Dominic Bradley, Ken Magennis, Eileen Bell, Iris Robinson and more, attended. See here for a glossy brochure regarding the trip:

What did they do you ask? They went to investigate the 'Combatting Autism Act' (2006) in the USA and made links and developed relationships to further the private members bill calling for an Autism Act in Northern Ireland (amendment to DDA legislation).

Dominic Bradley and Arlene Cassidy have now gone down in history as the heroes who brought in this 'act'. Meanwhile, 'back at the ranch', the children have been forgotten. Limelight is more important than actually doing something constructive.

We have horrible and unimaginable instances of torture and abuse of children as was addressed in this blog entry, regarding the Judge Rotenberg Center. The touchy feely 'Autism Awareness' month has done what? to address these outrages?

Charities got a lot of money this month. That's Autism Awareness.

minervabradley said...

Saw the brochure. Other 'important' civil servants were there too-nice work if you can get it. Wonder -if anyone had the energy to go through the assembly reports- how many times those MLAs have put forward questions on behalf of their travelling companions 'Northern Ireland's National Autism Society' (p12)? No mention of how much this cost or who paid for it but a lot of the people who went along are wealthy in their own right- shame on them if they took autism funds to pay for this!

The Rotenberg centre is a nightmare, but as long as the majority of us are happy to leave the care of vulnerable individuals (whatever the label, autism,SLD, challenging behaviour, dementia, or just frail elderly)to 'experts' without open-door inspections and a mechanism that deals promptly and without antagonism to complaints from the public (are you listening, RQIA?)it will continue. No big autism charity here will take that issue on, too busy doing awareness raising.