Monday, January 14, 2008

We’re Better Than This: Aversive "Therapy"

When Jennifer Gonnerman wrote an article for Mother Jones magazine titled, School of Shock, she exposed the tip of very ugly “therapy” iceberg.

Aversive therapy is punishment, designed supposedly, to change a disabled child’s behavior. The rational for using it is to apply an aversive consequence immediately following unwanted behavior. Proponents insist, with this “conditioning” ensures the child will not repeat the behavior in the future.

The article takes on the Judge Rothenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts; a residential school that focused on providing special educational services with a brutal aversive behavior modification program at its core. Their use of aversives includes the use of electric shock treatments. Over half of the 234 children at the school carry 10-pound electric shock backpacks every day, all day, and all night. Children as young as ten years old receive this treatment.

But, the issue of aversive behavior treatments does not start and end at the Rothenberg School. Aversive therapy is happening throughout the country with differing degrees of severity. In classrooms all over the US, children face being locked in closets, thrown to the floor, sat upon or restrained, sprayed in the face with any number of liquids and worse.

The National Council on Disability (NCD) makes recommendations to the President and Congress on issues facing Americans with disabilities. The NCD published Improving the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Making Schools Work for All of America's Children, in May 1995. That’s almost 12 years ago and still the abuse continues. Here is what they wrote to the President.

The current system has the potential to allow parents to request and receive program methods that are unproven, experimental in nature, or dangerous or harmful to the physical or psychological health of their child… Students with severe behavioral disabilities are not criminals, and yet present law allows them to be subjected to procedures, which cannot be used on the most hardened criminals, or, in some cases, even on animals.

…In any other context, the use of these procedures would be considered child (or dependent) abuse or neglect. They should not be viewed as "treatment" just because a student has a disability… the United States could be cited for human rights violations against people with disabilities under its own Country Reports on Human Rights published annually by the Department of State. From:

We Are Better Than That

John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer. He captured and interrogated Abu Zubaydah, a member of al Qaeda. Kiriakou recently spoke to Brian Ross, at ABC News about his interrogation of Zubaydah. He admitted that the CIA, waterboarded the prisoner.

Ross: What happened as a result of that?

Kiriakou: He resisted [for] probably 30, 35 seconds....And a short time afterwards, in the next day or so, he told his interrogator that Allah had visit him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate because his cooperation would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured. And, from that day on he answered every question just like I'm sitting here speaking to you.

Ross: So in your view the water boarding broke him.

Kiriakou: I think it did, yes.

Ross: And did it make a difference in terms of —

Kiriakou: It did. The threat information that he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.

Even though the torture worked, Kiriakou now believes it was wrong. Why? "Because we're Americans, and we're better than that." Kiriakou concludes.

Ends Do Not Justify Means

Waterboarding, like electric shock is aversive therapy. It is punishment for not talking. And, it apparently works. One could argue that waterboarding is more torturous that electric shock aversive therapy, but that is not the point.

The point is we are talking about our country’s CHILDREN. Just because it works doesn't mean it should be a practice.We have a social contract with our children… to raise them up humanely, give them life experiences so they can become good citizens, educate them, treat them fairly, and help them into adulthood.

Punishing a child into submission, because they have a disability, should be no part of our social contract. We should be better than that.

Abuse in the name of behavior modification is still abuse. If educational leaders have so tainted our system and lost site of its commitment to our children, then it is time for, not reform, but revolution. Close those schools and throw the abusers in jail.

1 comment:

Trinity said...

hey there!

I'd add a citation for the article on waterboarding, so people can go look it up. Quick Googling found this: and a few other links. Is that where you got it?

And yeah, what works isn't really the question. Though there are people who argue it doesn't even do that: